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When should HR play a role as mediator?

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Jade Kim asked 3 months ago
When should HR step in to mediate conflict in the workplace?

1 Answer
Jean replied 3 months ago
Hi Jade!

Great question. Lora Patterson, Senior People Ops Advisor at Zenefits, shares some guidance around when HR should step in to mediate workplace conflict — and steps HR managers can take to resolve issues effectively.

1. When employees can resolve conflict themselves: There are plenty of situations in which HR doesn’t need to get involved. If employees feel comfortable discussing issues with each other and they can find a solution, allow them to resolve conflict themselves. If a manager feels confident handling issues while also remaining neutral, that can also work.

2. When HR should mediate conflict: HR can be a helpful resource in conflict. For example, if a manager isn’t sure what to do or an employee is having problems with their manager, HR can be a neutral third-party that helps find a solution. The guiding principle is if employees feel more comfortable asking HR to help, that option should be available to them.

3. Why addressing workplace conflict matters: Allowing conflict to linger hurts your workplace. The employees in conflict and those who interact with them are all affected in one way or another. This lowers morale, causes turnover, and makes employees lose respect for their leadership. It’s important to show you value employees by providing them a healthy work environment.

Steps HR managers can take to mediate: Every situation is different, but these general steps can help you navigate conflict well as a mediator.

1. Make sure both parties are willing to meet and open to hearing from the other side in order to find a solution.

2. Ensure you can remain neutral throughout the process so both parties can trust their side will be taken seriously.

3. Consider having a one-on-one meeting with each employee before a group discussion. Encourage employees to provide specific examples that contributed to the conflict to help identify the root issue.

4. Have a group meeting. Start by setting expectations, then allow each party to share their perspective. Next, guide them toward a solution both parties feel will work.

5. Meet with both parties in the next month to see if the solution is working or if you need to change course.

For more help addressing workplace conflict, check out this video:

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