By Dianna Booher, Huffington Post Contributor
When coworkers are caught in conflict, do you know how to re-open the lines of communication without getting trapped in the fallout? Do you care—or do you just stay clear? As a leader, here’s what you can do to help minimize the grumbling, reduce the stress, and resolve the issue:
Avoid taking sides and talking the opposition over to the other viewpoint. Work with both individuals from the very beginning. You may decide to meet with both people together or separately. If you meet with them separately, make sure both understand that what they share with you may not necessarily be withheld from the other person. You may need to use that information to verify and clarify with the other person. If you don’t warn them upfront, they may think you’re “breaking their confidence.”
Interview the bystanders. You can only make sense of someone else’s conflict when armed with unbiased versions of events and circumstances. Casually observe how “innocent bystanders” react to the situation. What do they have to say about the issues? Be careful, of course, that you don’t just collect the data that was passed on to them from the other people directly involved. Just probe for what they’ve observed first-hand. Identify facts, assumptions, and feelings. They all count.
Handle the PR. If you can pass on complimentary remarks from one person to the other, do so. If not, you may have to dig into the past to find these gems. “Jerry, Antonio does respect your work. If you recall, last quarter he asked to be assigned to your team on the Bilcox project.” The purpose is to help them recall their past good relationship (if that’s been the case.) Sharing positive remarks adds credence to other things the person says. If someone is willing to confirm the good, chances are they’ll likely be honest—as they see it—about the current problem.