Portland, Oregon has had its share of challenges, both front-and-center in workplaces as well as environmental concerns from stressful weather to global health crises. Even the most mild-mannered person can grow more irritable in the wake of major challenges and stressors. When stress reaches a breaking point, workplace conflict tends to increase. When this happens, managers and colleagues can feel like they don't have the strategies to help them de-escalate tensions in their workplace.
Luckily, conflict resolution isn't something that has to come naturally. It is a skill that can be learned. Even if you've had initial training in workplace conflict resolution, advanced mediation skills can help you get to the bottom of even the most entrenched conflicts.
The Importance of Having Conflict Management Skills
It is an unrealistic expectation that a workplace will be devoid of conflict: from distinct personalities to simple misunderstandings, conflict is bound to arise occasionally. It's valuable to have certain elements baked into your corporate culture from the beginning that will help de-escalate conflict, such as:
- Focusing on solutions after a problem has been generally explained, rather than dwelling on the problem.
- Being quick to forgive after a conflict and quick to move on without allowing or promoting grudges.
- Demonstration at the highest levels of the company that conflicts should be resolved through listening and moving on, not continued tension.
Unfortunately, not every work culture has leadership that demonstrates and promotes these values. Instead, even here in the Portland, Oregon area where many positive workplace cultures exist, there are still companies where conflict is common and even spurred forward by leadership. If you find yourself in a conflict-filled work environment, it could be valuable to work toward learning mediation skills.
What Are Advanced Mediation Skills?
Mediation, at its heart, is having a fairly disinterested third party (or fourth, if there are three disputants) listen carefully to all sides of a major conflict and help the entire group come to a satisfying compromise. Typically, this involves creating some set rules for how the disputants will engage with each other; for instance, if they are unwilling to let each other speak without interruption, the mediation might begin with listening to each person's complete story without the conflicting party in the room.
Once the mediator has heard both sides, and usually, with everyone listening to each other, there is time to discuss what each party wants to get out of the experience, what goals or agreements they wish to secure in order to move past the conflict. Often, the very act of having to bring the entire conflict to light in an organized and thoughtful way will reveal simple changes that will help everyone behave with more respect in the future.
While the basics of mediation may seem easy, Advanced Mediation Skills involve being able to truly maintain your impartiality, practicing your active listening skills, and work toward rebuilding relationships by growing respect and trust in the wake of the conflict. While some of these skills can be learned by rote, many of them come through active role-playing or experience.
Tips For Dealing With Workplace Conflicts
- Portland Community College offers a course through the CLIMB Center that gives many tips for resolving conflict and focuses on resolving workplace conflicts in particular using mediation. Advanced Mediation Skills gives you ample opportunity to role-play a variety of scenarios drawn from real life and see how you can finesse your language to provide the best possible conflict resolution.
- Recognize that sweeping things under the rug tends to grow the conflict, not shrink it. Whenever it is in your purview, have employees with a conflict work through their frustrations early, not after their dislike of each other has become an entrenched part of their workplace experience.
- Start from defining something on which the people in the conflict can agree, from a priority to an element of the problem to an underlying mutual source of stress. When they see that there is something that affects them both, they can often identify the exact point where their opinions diverge, identifying a small point of disagreement rather than saying they have nothing in common.
- Work on your team's fair-fighting rules: anything that can prevent personal insults, sarcasm, or all-or-nothing language when experiencing a disagreement can avoid making a small dispute into a large and brutal one. Recognizing that teams will disagree and normalizing that experience lets you focus instead on the most respectful ways to disagree and move forward.
Portland Community College is a great place to strengthen the art of resolving workplace conflict with greater understanding and put good mediation skills into practice. Try the Advanced Mediation Skills course and sample the many other professional development classes available at the Portland Community College CLIMB Center today.