When you love someone, you will fight to make it work. You will try to understand each other when things go wrong, look at how you can make things better, or engage with a therapist to help you work through your problems. Most of us wouldn’t walk away from a long term partnership, without trying everything to make it work.
So why, when we spend more time with our colleagues than our partners, would many walk away from a job they love due to conflict with a colleague, without trying to resolve it first. It’s quite simple. When it comes to conflict in the workplace, we don’t know how to resolve it, we’re too scared of making matters worse, or saying the wrong thing. We’re told to try and resolve things informally, but with no guidance as to how, or support to do so, or we’re told to raise a formal grievance… and I’m going to say something a little controversial here, as an experienced HR professional – raising a grievance, in most cases, is a completely pointless exercise…
Looking at it very simply – how is putting your colleague through a formal process, during which you make a statement against them, highlighting all the things they are doing to ‘wrong’ you, going to make things better? They will be investigated and will spend time seeking to prove that they have done nothing wrong, and will perhaps suggest that it’s your fault. And when this emotionally charged, time consuming and costly process is exhausted, in many cases the outcome will be “insufficient evidence to support”, as unless there is clear evidence of bullying and harassment, it usually just becomes a game of “he said, she said” – and in that game, there are no winners. And guess what happens next – if your grievance isn’t upheld, or if it is, but the action taken against the other party doesn’t involve them leaving the business, you lucky people get to continue working together!
(Don’t get me wrong, I’m being a little tongue in cheek - grievances have their place and may result in action that does solve the problem, or improve the situation, in some cases – but these are cases where clear misconduct has taken place, and not where there is simply a relationship breakdown between two parties.)
So, what’s the alternative – Mediation. One day (in most cases), and all your troubles will melt away… ok, not quite -it’s not that easy. But, spending one day with your colleague and a Mediator, both individually and together, will give you a solid foundation to move forward positively together. You will explore the reason for the conflict, understand each other’s points of view, and in most cases will leave the session with a documented and agreed way forward. The sessions are a supportive and safe space, which both parties enter in to voluntarily – sure, things can become emotional, but it is the role of the mediator to keep discussions on track and to make sure that both parties are comfortable with how things are progressing. So, if you are struggling with a relationship at work, or are observing relationship challenges in your business, my advice? – don’t wait for it escalate. Speak to your People/ HR Team, or your line manager and take the positive and proactive steps of requesting mediation – you won’t regret it.
If you would like to find out more about mediation as solution to conflict in your business, please do get in touch!