Managers must know five main rules to position themselves as a conflict mediator in their company.
A fashionable term in the media for several years, mediation is struggling to develop in many companies.
And yet, it has its place to prevent conflicts or defuse them in the best possible conditions.
Mediation is a method of conflict resolution just like negotiation. This method is a negotiation process facilitated by a third party not exercising any substantive decision-making power, the purpose of which is to allow the parties concerned to carry out a project, to resolve an issue, conflict situation or to re-establish / establish a relationship.
The challenge for the manager is to know how to position himself as a mediator in his company, in order to manage conflicts within his department or his teams.
To get there, here are 5 rules to follow:
1. Be neutral and sympathetic:
Neutrality is one of the prerequisites for successful mediation. The manager must, as a mediator, position himself as a trusted third party in order to promote exchanges. He cannot therefore take a position.
The risk, otherwise, is that the employee, or the group, thinks that this mediation process is neither objective nor fair and therefore that they no longer want to participate in the conflict resolution process.
In order to be as neutral as possible, the manager must show empathy, take a step back from the situation and not be emotionally involved.
Be careful, there is a real difference between being empathetic and being sympathetic.
Empathy is a notion that designates the fusion of his feelings with those of others. In order to feel the feelings of the other, one loses consciousness of his "ego" and then becomes emotionally involved in the conflict, which cannot be reconciled with the mediator's demand for neutrality
2. Give preference to listening:
Based on the work of American psychologist Carl Rogers, active listening is a tool that enables the mediator to better communicate and relate to others.
Through methods such as paraphrasing, identifying emotions or even reformulating, the latter will focus on these interlocutors and make sure to understand each other's points of view.
It is important that during this listening phase rules are put in place. The actors who are going to speak undertake to describe the situation in terms of observation, as factually as possible, that is to say without value judgment or evaluation.
And they must describe the feelings expressed or felt in a personal capacity.
For example, the "you had an aggressive attitude in the middle of a work meeting" is to be avoided while a "I felt attacked by your attitude in the middle of a work meeting" is much more constructive.
Through this phase of respective and mutual listening, the mediator will be able to defuse the conflict and resume dialogue.
3. Define the problem to better solve it:
Once the listening phase is over, the manager will be able to better understand the roots of the problem but also its real extent.
It is interesting to see that in many cases, the discord is linked to a distorted representation of the situation by the different parties, notably due to a lack of communication.
This confirmation bias can lead to a polarization of attitudes or beliefs, and hence to conflict, when it could have been easily avoided. In many cases, the presence of a neutral third party will be enough to reduce tensions and rekindle dialogue.
In fact, having an objective look, the manager must be able to identify with his team the true nature of the problem and once this is accepted by all, to solve it
4. Be creative:
As the needs are well expressed on both sides, we must then imagine and list as many possible solutions as possible, evaluate them and then choose the one that would be most suitable to build a sustainable solution.
It is important that this phase is constructive, creative and that the actors take a step back from the problem to be more relevant.
It should be a moment of sharing between the different parties.
5. Ensure the proper execution of the agreement:
After the creativity stage, there is reality. In the case of an agreement, it is necessary to define who is committed to what, by what deadline and how.
You don't have to put everything in writing, a gentleman's agreement will suffice in many cases.
On the other hand, if the conflict is complex and important, then it will be necessary:
- Define precise commitments (who, when, what, where)
- Anticipate possible problems (what if we do?)
- Ensure that the different parties are satisfied (that is to say, take into account the concerns, so as to strengthen the sustainability of the agreement)
- Define procedures in case of difficulty of application
By putting dialogue, listening and benevolence back at the center of the business, the manager who positions himself as a mediator can be a real facilitator. And many difficult situations or conflicts can thus be avoided or defused.