Brainfood: Your route to the top - Handling altercations

Allow each person to talk for five minutes without being interrupted. That way, everyone gets to vent their views and make their case.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Listen sensitively but dispassionately. If you are going to diffuse the situation, you must be seen to be impartial.

Check that you understand them by summarising. Make sure they feel you have heard the concerns of each person. Allow them to continue amending or adding to your explanations until you are sure you have the full story.

Don't get seduced by the drama. Concentrate instead on separating fact from speculation and emotion: 'The competition could undercut us', rather than 'There will be a bloody price war that will shatter our margins'.

Discover the reasons behind their views and what led them to take different positions. By moving from what each person wants to why they want it, you can create a solution that meets the needs of both.

Create a different perspective. Invite both parties to step out of their own shoes and look at their situation through the eyes of a wise observer (or each other). Encourage them to share what they see and any ideas on how they might resolve their differences.

Emphasise the similarities. Remind your colleagues of the important things they have in common by focusing on shared beliefs and goals. It can also help to highlight a common evil against which both are united.

Focus on future solutions rather than on historical problems or mistakes.

The past is useful only to help us make a better decision this time around.

Make sure both people are satisfied with the end result and feel that their needs have been at least partially met. If they have compromised, make sure they understand the benefits of this and show your appreciation.

Congratulate your colleagues on weathering the storm successfully - it's not easy.

The Mind Gym, www.themindgym.com.

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