Early resolution of disputes, disagreements and performance issues saves time, trouble and money. There are many issues that people tolerate, hoping they will get better: a demanding boss, irritating colleague, battling boards, disagreeing directors or silent obstruction. Delaying a decision is making a decision to ignore the issue at least temporarily (More on this topic).
On the other hand, rushing to make a decision can end up in disaster–especially if emotions kick in. Before handing in your notice, sacking that employee, going to small claims or calling a lawyer, think about early resolution. (I call it conflict first aid.)
What is Early Resolution?
Early resolution involves recognising the signs of potential conflict, assessing the situation and providing appropriate intervention. Usually, I meet with each of the people involved to hear their story and understand how they see the issue. Then, I explore what they need to make the situation better. Sometimes this is all that is needed to help people resolve the issues. Sometimes a person needs some help in how they communicate their needs to others. In another case might not be aware of the negative impact of their words or behaviour.
I would then discuss with the individuals if they felt they had the tools to resolve the issue themselves. If not we would work out the best way forward. In some cases, this might be a facilitated meeting, in others conflict coaching or training.
Why is Early Intervention Important?
The graphic below illustrates how conflict grows. Initially, it is some small thing, over time it grows. Like an avalanche, as it grows it speeds up and becomes more difficult to stop. The sooner one tackles the issue, the easier it is to resolve.
When disagreements or disputes last a long time, feelings become entrenched. Negativity sets in and it becomes harder to shift mindsets and find solutions. Productivity suffers. (More on the cost of conflict)
When is an External Person Helpful?
If there are the skills and expertise within the organisation, it may be best to resolve things in house. However, there are times when an external expert provides the most efficient route to early resolution and a long-lasting positive result.
- When staff and managers are already stretched, using an external person saves time
- It may be difficult to find someone who is truly impartial. The people involved may be reluctant to share their views with internal providers, in case it impacts on their future employment.
- If there is a chance that disciplinary or grievance procedures may take place if things deteriorate, it is best to use an external person.
- Using an external person also shows that the organisation is taking the matter seriously. This in itself is a powerful motivator for resolution as well as creating a definite timescale.
- The use of an external agency avoids creating a dependency on someone within the organisation to resolve all conflicts and helps individuals to learn to resolve their own issues.
- The expert will bring a fresh perspective and specialist skills.
Confidential: Everything that is said to the facilitator or conflict coach is confidential. There are exceptions to this, for example, if there is a child protection issue, if someone is in immediate danger, or if there is a specific request to pass on informaton.
Voluntary: The participants choose whether or not they want to use the process. They are free to withdraw at any time. It is non-binding; the parties are responsible for keeping any agreements they make.
Independent: I provide a “third side” and a fresh perspective. I don’t take sides, but support everyone involved to find the best solution for themselves and others.
Enabling: I provide the perspectives people need to see the situation and their own needs more clearly. Then, I teach them the tools and strategies to find and implement a solution that suits them.
Contact me for more information on how I can help you find a better way of working, with discretion and dignity guaranteed.
The first exploratory conversation is free and confidential, with no obligations.
More on Conflict First Aid