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Tools for resolving workplace conflict

Repair work relationships + restore team harmony

Fractured workplace relationships and team tensions are often signs of workplace conflict. The underlying causes could range from pent up disagreements to serious incidents like bullying, sexual harassment or some other breach of the organisation’s code of conduct.

There are several tools and strategies that organisations should have in their conflict resolution tool-belt. For example:

  • Cultural Reviews allow senior management and the board to take a broad sweeping, proactive approach by identifying and mitigating any potential red flags and highlighting any concerns or common themes that may need to be addressed.

  • Workplace Investigations should be used whenever a manager becomes aware of a serious complaint or allegation. Workplace investigations must be conducted professionally from interview stage through to the final report. Outsourcing the task to an independent workplace investigator is often the best port of call.

  • Mediation creates a safe space for individuals involved in workplace conflict to delve into the deeper issues and navigate towards a resolution. An experienced mediator can objectively identify where relationships have an undercurrent, or when particular issues need to be discussed.

  • Facilitated Group Discussions are particularly useful when there are issues or underlying conflict within a team of employees.

  • Restorative Practice is a communication strategy that can be used to repair damaged workplace relationships and restore harmony within teams.

Are you familiar with Restorative Practice?

The concept of restorative practice comes from criminal justice principle of restorative justice, which switches the focus from the actions of the offender to the harm caused by their actions.1 The focus is not on punishment but providing an opportunity for the offender to understand the harm and make things right.2

WorkPlacePLUS uses restorative practice and reparative communication strategies as tools to assist organisations with

  • supporting appropriate workplace behaviours,

  • minimising inappropriate behaviours,

  • rebuilding team trust,

  • fostering a culture of healing when issues occur, and

  • fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

As a communication-based approach to resolving workplace conflict, restorative practice can be applied at various stages across a range of workplace processes, such as

  • in the day-to-day managing and mentoring of staff,

  • in direct unmediated conversations between individuals,

  • during a performance management discussion,

  • during a facilitated group discussion,

  • after a workplace cultural review,

  • after a workplace investigation, and

  • after a formal mediation session.

It’s important to note that restorative practice is only appropriate in certain circumstances, as you do not want such conversations to do harm. For instance, if it has been substantiated that an employee has engaged in bullying behaviour and they are still working with the victim, restorative practice may not be suitable.

WorkPlacePLUS can talk you through your options for conflict resolution and help you ensure you are using the appropriate tools and processes at the right times.

If restorative practice is a suitable choice for the issue at hand, rest assured that the team at WorkPlacePLUS has the skills and experience to successfully facilitate reparative discussions.

For more information, please contact us today.

1 Howard Zehr ‘Community Justice: The Historical Alternative’ in Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice (1999).

2 Howard Zehr The Little Book of Restorative Justice 23, 24.

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