Set Ground Rules to Squash Team Conflicts

Workplaces are full of diverse personalities who communicate in unique ways. These differences in personalities are what make conflict resolution an uncomfortable and touchy subject. The first step to successfully deal with conflict is to bring both parties together and have a meeting of the minds. The parties involved in the conflict need to sit down and talk it out.

Prior to this meeting the ground rules need to be explained. There are four ground rules to successful conflict resolution.

Rule No. 1:

Each side must listen fully to the other side before responding. Often when one party is explaining something that is bothering them, the second party will feel defensive and want to jump in and explain why they did XYZ to justify their actions. There is nothing more frustrating when someone interrupts you, especially when trying to resolve a problem. The first person listens to everything the other person has to say, and then the second person will have their opportunity to explain their side. This process is repeated until both sides have sufficiently made their case.

Rule No. 2:

Identify the issues clearly, professionally, and concisely. Unless the issue is identified, a resolution cannot be found. In some cases, tension can simmer and slowly build up to a boil, making it extremely important to have open communication with your co-workers. You may not always know what is going on in another person’s life, so try not to jump to conclusions.

Rule No. 3:

When both parties meet to discuss their issues, they are only allowed to use “I” statements. “I felt ignored at the meeting this morning when I was trying to explain the details about being understaffed.” Framing an issue you have with another person with an “I” statement helps to bring their defenses down, so a resolution can be found among the conflict. “You” statements tend to put people on the defensive because they feel like their integrity is under attack.

“You always put the tools back wrong.”

“You never take out the trash.”

When someone starts to get on the defensive, they stop hearing everything that is being said. Instead, they are focusing on how to defend their integrity. “I” statements diffuse anger and assault.

“I get upset when I can’t find the tools I need.”

“I do not like it when a harsh tone is used when answering a question I have.”

When you bring the problem back to how it makes you feel, it will bring guards down and a conversation can begin.

Rule No. 4:

The final and most important rule is that there are no personal attacks, name-calling or fingerpointing. These are sure fire ways to get the other person on the defensive and do not lead to anything constructive. When voices raise, the control of the conversation is lost. This prevents both parties from being able to continue the conversation with a level head. As soon as the voices raise, each side needs to pause — maybe even step aside for a few moments — to gain their composure so a civil conversation may continue.

Having conflict in a shop is OK; in fact, it’s actually healthy. However, preventing conflict from turning into heated conflict is crucial to avoid division in a team. If a resolution cannot be found with the two parties sitting down and talking it out, then it is time to bring in a mediator. Often times this will be the manager. Whomever it is, they need to remain as neutral as Switzerland. The mediator cannot and should not pick sides, and the same ground rules apply. Everyone wants to work in a happy, peaceful environment, so it’s important to talk it out and end conflict as quickly as possible.

Chris Ciardello

CHRIS CIARDELLO is a practice management consultant with Global Team Solutions. Passionate about sharing his expertise in technology and marketing, Ciardello has a distinctive knack for understanding the needs of work environments and assisting companies in building productive, cohesive teams. For more information on Ciardello, visit: www.gtsgurus.com