You and your workmate, Steve, have been on the best of terms since he recently started working with you. You oversee his operations and occasionally guide him in the right direction. Steve is often slow in finishing his tasks but you do not mind as he has a nice personality. However, you gave Steve an important task to finish on a Friday afternoon, you assumed that he would finish the task, as it is his job.

Steve finished only part of it. He was not aware he needed to finish the entire task by the end of the day and he was at ease thinking that he has a good relationship with you. On the following Monday morning your boss yells at you for the incomplete work. You are angry.

Everyone in a workplace has met a Steve, maybe not in the same situation or with the same issue (or even the same name) but everyone knows a Steve.

Firstly, you should have a look at your workplace policy in dealing with conflict. If you are unsure, need an idea about what the policy should outline or just need general guidance, Lawpath offers workplace policies bundles to help you deal with different Steves across different situations.

What else can you do in this situation or any situation in which a workplace conflict is arising?

1. Set the scene

Invite the person you have a problem with to sit down. Calmly, communicate to the person that you wish to discuss this situation, with the aim of finding a solution, not just to point out the other person’s mistakes. Sometimes, it may help to have a third impartial party present, especially in cases where both parties are fairly upset.

2. Talk it out

Discuss the agenda, both parties need to take turns in candidly discussing and explaining their situation. It is important to ensure that this is not a continuation of the argument, the purpose of this talk is for the parties to be able to express their areas of discontent in regards to the opposite parties’ behaviour. Both parties should carry on a conversational, not an argumentative, tone. For example, in this particular scenario, you need to explain to Steve that his behaviour is not professional and that your personal relationship should not have an impacted his professionalism. In turn, Steve may point out that he was unaware of the task’s importance. The key is to listen actively and acknowledge the other party’s comments without being defensive or reactive.

3. Collaborate

Work together to decide what is best, it important to seek mutually advantageous gains for both parties. This step may involve accommodating and making concessions. The goal of it is to find some common ground that both parties can agree upon. In this scenario, both you and Steve can agree that there was a misunderstanding. Then you can both decide what the next step should be so that the misunderstanding does not occur again.

4. Negotiation

compromise based on giving concessions. It is an important step that has the potential of deterring future conflicts. It is key to ensure that both parties participate and agree to the negotiations. In our particular scenario, the solution would be for you to email Steve the deadlines for all his tasks so Steve knows when to finish. Also, drawing boundaries between personal and professional relationships would be beneficial.

5. Hug it out

Or perhaps a handshake would do but it is important for both parties to end the process with a feeling of satisfaction. It is important for the parties to either check in with each other, or have a third party check in with each of them, to ask if they feel heard and have had their needs met to some extent.

Resolving workplace conflicts in the correct manner can lead the workplace to be more creative and responsive to clients. However, conflict resolution is not always easy. Sometimes, employees simply have a personality conflict that can interfere with their work. In such times, workplace policies can be effective in outlining actions that should be avoided by the employees. An example of such policies is available from Lawpath’s website.

If you need further information about resolving workplace conflicts, contact a Lawpath consultant on 1800LAWPATH.

Dominic Woolrych

Dominic is the CEO of LawPath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.