Using Mediation Techniques to Help a Colleague in Conflict
BY ANNA SHIELDS, FORBES
How to advise a colleague that is struggling with a conflict at work? “Although well-intentioned, misjudged support can make things worse, exacerbating conflict” warns Anna Shields from Forbes as she explains three key principles to bear in mind when helping a colleague with a difficult situation. Learn how to use mediation techniques to best help your co-worker.
“My boss is a nightmare, and I’m at my wits’ end!” When experiencing a tricky workplace relationship, workers often turn to a trusted colleague for support. But how to respond? Leap to their defense, or spend time sympathizing? Back up their views, or give advice?
Although well-intentioned, misjudged support can make things worse, exacerbating conflict. There are three key principles to bear in mind when helping a colleague with a difficult situation.
Meet them where they are
When approached by a colleague, it’s a natural instinct to give advice, offer a solution, or share a similar experience. And that’s where the first challenge lies. As a colleague relates the details of their experience, the listener is often occupied in their thoughts, preparing what to say in response. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey said, “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply”.
And many of those replies can be counterproductive. Telling someone what to do is disempowering and removes the opportunity for them to work out their own course of action. A response, such as “Why didn’t you say …?” can appear critical. Any guidance is based on assumptions about the best course of action for someone else. It is also only based on one perspective, without taking into account different viewpoints from the other parties involved.
A more helpful approach is to focus on connecting with where people are at. Most often, those experiencing conflict need to talk things through, which helps them process the issues and feel heard. A supportive colleague should focus on asking questions to deepen understanding and listen for the underlying themes.