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Gemma Dipple on managing conflicts in the workplace

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When conflicts arise, HR are often called in to help fix them. Here Gemma Dipple, HR Business Partner, gives her view on the ingredients needed to solve conflicts at work.

“Of course we can’t get on with everyone and the nature of employment means that we are often working with people we wouldn’t chose to socialise with. This is part of working life. But what happens when a relationship turns sour and starts to affect how we think and feel about work?

Each problem and its causes will be different from another. In my experience, the earlier problems are dealt with, and informally if the nature of them allows this, the better. Of course, some issues are too serious to be tackled less formally and these should always be discussed with your line manager or HR.

Below I’ve noted some key points that I feel can help at this early stage:

1. Consider your expectations – how do want the relationship to change and how do you see it working after the conflict has been resolved? Are these realistic in a work context? You won’t need to become friends with the person concerned but you do need to work together in a functional way. I have often witnessed relationships become better after a conflict is resolved as those concerned have a clearer understanding of each other.

2. Speak to a trusted colleague – Do you have a mentor, or another member of your team that you can speak to? Often someone else’s perspective can help the way you think and feel about the issue before you tackle it. However, don’t be talked out of dealing with the issue if you feel strongly about it.

3. Use your HR team – often having external support to tackle a situation can help and your HR team can offer you advice before you do. They can help in a number of ways so chat to them and see what your options are.

4. Don’t be afraid to seek support – many employers have employee assistance programmes where you can access free counselling services.

5. Stay positive – this can be hard but it’s important to approach the situation with a view to it being resolved. The ideal outcome is that the relationship remains intact and issues are fully dealt with.”

To learn more about how quality communication can help avoid unnecessary conflict and how you can use it to resolve difficult situations, join the Development Committee with Jay Lutwyche and Gemma Dipple of Shakespeare Martineau at the “Conflict and Communication at work” event taking place on the evening of 14th November 2017. Register for the event here.