By Simon Dawson Founder of hiringandfiring.co.uk
Is it true that many communications firms suffer from disputes between staff? Yes, I'm afraid it is.
So what can managers in small firms do? Well, you don't have to be a psychologist to manage it, but you do have to understand what is going on.
A dispute is a disagreement but with emotion embedded in it. Deal with the emotion and you have a disagreement much more useful and creative in a business.
Unlike many 'experts' I don't believe you can deal with the emotions in a dispute by better communication, by clever training, by suppressing one side's position, by negotiating a settlement, or by formal procedures.
Emotions are feelings and have to be dealt with non-verbally.
There is a magic way of dealing with this sort of situation. The magic is about getting inside the other's skin. Technically this is 'empathy'. People low on empathy may be able to make difficult decisions, but they also upset others.
This is a major reason behind staff turnover most people don't leave their job, they leave their boss. Where low empathy exists amongst the staff, that's when you have a dispute.
If you can get either, or both to get inside the skin of the other, the dispute will vanish, indeed the difference of opinion regularly vanishes also. People develop empathy naturally throughout their lives; but some, a little slower than others, have to be helped.
The technique for making this happen is mediation. It's major use in the UK has been in the Courts where a mediated divorce settlement is usually much more successful than a costly, fraught Court battle. However the use in employment is about to have a major boost.
The DTI are consulting on the repeal of the statutory dispute resolution procedures in favour of less formal methods, especially mediation. Over the next few years in will become a regular way of resolving disputes
We all get involved in mediation at various times in our lives. However, when it's the business that is affected, it is worth getting someone with experience of how to do it effectively and quickly.
The Law Society is already training lawyers. and there are private companies specialising in training mediators like Total Conflict Management. ACAS have a training course and Certificate. If I need a mediator, I will distinguish between two types.
Those who have been trained to use procedures, like the ACAS Certificate course does. And those natural listeners and non-judgemental types, the peacemakers who can get to the heart and soul of the dispute naturally. I go for the peacemakers.
The skills these mediators brings to your business are various, the most important is listening that's not a clich, it's something that takes much experience and practice. It has two effects. The parties feel listened to, often something they haven't felt before.
And the basis of the upset becomes revealed to the mediator. The skills in then resolving the matter are not in providing answers.
Instead, they are in the very powerful method that Socrates used. A good mediator will ask questions that go to the heart of the issue, questions that stimulate understanding, and questions that help reveal to one side, the feelings and situation of the other.
I'm a great believer, for organisations, in telephone mediation. Typically, but not always, a resolution can be achieved between two individuals in about 3 hours. I provide this system in my web service HiringAndFiring.co.uk.
The mediator, normally a Lawyer or Chartered Psychologist, deals with issues without the disputing parties coming into contact, and emotion and argument diminishes.
At the right time the two parties can be brought together to review their respective positions from a new and less destructive viewpoint.
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