ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Monday, November 17, 2014

Resolving Disagreements - and staying neutral

Resolving Workplace Conflict - Small disagreements

Since this seems to be my topic for the month – why not talk about what I teach. 
Most conflict is minor – a misunderstanding, a tiff, a disagreement, something easily resolved through conversation.  Yet, we seem to be so about “zero tolerance” that no matter how small we react as though it were major.

What I teach is how to listen neutrally, try to learn the different sides of the story – and that’s very hard to do since the tendency in all of us is to believe the first person’s story – so that means we tend to believe the person making the accusation without taking into account that what we are hearing is their perception, often distorted, frequently exaggerated to convince us, but only one side of the story.
Unless the allegation is egregious (a felony – rape, murder, drug usage on site, etc.) most of the time the proper way to resolve it is to bring the parties together and help them work it out.  Technically, this is called mediation.

Sometimes there is too much anger or pain and you make the decision to first separate them and act as a go-between trying to help each side calm down and gain some perspective – this is called conciliation. 

At some point you feel comfortable asking them to meet face to face.  At that point, you move from conciliator to mediator and help them resolve it.  I teach how to do this!

If you are successful mediating they can go back to work and inform their allies (teams) that all is well.  You have now avoided tension among groups of people, as well as the protagonists themselves.
See the value?

This is so much better than playing judge and jury and “arbitrating” the dispute.  No one is happy when you make the decision for them.  You have now added to the polarization of the people that are allies with each of the parties.

All managers and all HR professionals ought to be taught how to do a neutral investigation, and mediation and arbitration.  This can be accomplished in a one day training with lots of practice.


As I said, it is so easy to believe the first person coming in the door.  Here are a few other biases that we all have and need to fight against.  This is from an article “58 Cognitive biases that screw up everything we do” by Drake Baer and Gus Lubin, in Business Insider.

Affect heuristic:           The way you feel filters the way you interpret the world – for example, if you are hungry your focus will be on food and other things coming your way might be ignored.
Anchoring bias:           Going against the norm, the example is that you are better off in a negotiation if you make the first offer.
Confirmation bias:       We tend to listen only to the information that confirms our preconceptions.  (This is my point about how hard it is to be neutral.)
Observer-expectancy effect:   Looking for a result, you only see those things that confirm that result and never notice, or deny those that don’t.
Bias blind spots:          Failure to recognize your cognitive biases is a bias in itself.
Galatea Effect:            Where people succeed or underperform depending on their self-perception – in other words where they think they should.
Inter-group bias:          To view people in our group differently from how we see someone in another group.
Negativity bias:            The tendency to put more emphasis on negative experiences rather than positive ones.  People with this bias feel that “bad is stronger than good” – this is also where it becomes easier to believe the bad about people than it is to believe the good.
Ostrich effect:              Sticking your head in the sand rather than paying attention to dangerous or negative information.
Planning fallacy:          the tendency to underestimate how much time it will take to complete the task

Selective perception:   allowing our expectations to influence how we perceive the world.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home