Disagreements Are Healthy Parts of Human Nature

Without debates, the world as we know it may cease to exist. From advances in science, technology, and religion, to human rights, ethics, and yes, even taxes, dominant notions have been built from arguments.

Ideas are born from our different ways of thinking, and in that sense, disagreements help us learn, grow and evolve.

However, while a healthy debate can inspire, bullying, harassment, and all-out brawls are unacceptable. The goal is to prevent opposite views from getting to that point, but you need to know when to step in. And if a workplace conflict does go too far, you’ll need to be prepared to mediate and work with all parties to find a solution. In many offices, rumblings of conflict can be heard in the hallways allowing you to get wind of it ahead of time and keep your finger on its pulse.

In instances such as this, it is recommended you step-in at any of these points:

  • Someone (most importantly one of the involved parties) approaches you about the issue. This usually means it has gotten to the point that they cannot work it out on their own.
  • Someone is threatening to quit over the problem. No employee should be made to feel that the workplace is a source of contention, especially to the point of giving up a job to get out of it. Additionally, it will cost the company more, in the long run, to find a replacement and ramp them up to full productivity.
  • The argument is moving to topics outside of work and becoming more personal and hurtful. This can do severe damage, as trust and respect are lost quickly and hard to regain. Without those, working together may forever be difficult.
  • If the company begins feeling the effects of the conflict. Whether it be in morale, the bottom line, or the overall vision and mission of the organization, no disagreement should be significant enough to derail any of those three items.

Once you’re involved, it is crucial to handle the situation swiftly but professionally.

  • Start by resetting any opinions you have and understand your need to be impartial to the situation. It is essential that regardless of your personal feelings you give everyone an equal opportunity to express their concerns.
  • Take each party aside individually and listen to the conflict as told from their perspective. Here’s where your super secret agent skills come in; piece together what happened using every side of the story and come up with a summary of the situation.
  • Bring all sides together in a neutral location and reveal to them what you’ve gathered in your impartial thesis of the problem.
  • Establish ground rules to keep the discussion calm and under control as you work together to solve the issue.
  • As each party works through the conflict using first-person statements such as, “I feel my ideas…”, be sure to summarize often to ensure everyone agrees as to how the problem has evolved.
  • Once this is finished, you can begin working together as a team to troubleshoot constructive solutions to the dispute. It is essential that everyone agrees to the possible resolutions, and if any option isn’t 100% with anyone, it is thrown out.
  • Upon a decision, create an outline of next steps with everyone and have written agreements signed stating acknowledgment and willingness to adhere to the chosen solution. This agreement should also include actions if the contract is not upheld.
  • Finally, ask for apologies and good-faith handshakes to put it behind them. This action can humanize the situation and help people stick to a conflict-free environment.
If you notice the mediation is getting out of hand, feel free to take a break and let people gain hold of their emotions before restarting.

Like all other company policies, it is vital to make everyone aware of these rules ahead of hire, and have company-wide refresher sessions annually. We’ve even created a nifty guide for you to use with your team to help them resolve conflicts before they get to you. A self-sufficient squad is a great thing to have!