Being an HR Manager for close to 10 years, you see a lot of drama and conflict in the workplace. You see all sorts of behaviors. Sometimes, someone will get real mad about a situation, often times justifiably from their perspective. They will come to my office looking for me to resolve their problem. Sometimes, it will be a situation in which one person feels unfairly treated by the other or even bullied.
The first thing we are taught is to listen, assess the situation for any major escalation, and then calmly ask the person, “Have you addressed this directly with the other person?” “Have you confronted the problem together and have you explained how it made you feel?”
Often times, they will say no. Then we calmly say, “The first step you must take is to go talk to that person directly. If this does not resolve the behavior and it continues, then come back to me for the second step.” Then you send the person back…unless there is real danger or threat to safety.
9 times out of 10, this approach is most effective in treating the issue. It also helps the person to build their own courage and stand up for themselves which is critical to their self-confidence and also their reputation and dignity in the workplace.
Sometimes, this still doesn’t work. They come back to the office for step two which involves a supervisor or manager mediating a discussion again between the two and advising them of how to act professionally in the workplace. This also is very effective usually.
However, sometimes you have quite a problem in the workplace and the third step involves either progressive documented discipline or even legal involvement. Sometimes, even a person must risk social or job loss or financial loss in order to eventually come to the table for honest dialogue. Most times, if it does involve legal assistance, it can be handled out of the courts and not escalated even further. Often times, the HR manager might want to consider offering a suggestion of private counseling to both parties. One party may feel some trauma from feeling the victim of some mistreatment in the workplace, whereas often times, the other party may experience trauma too from the subsequent anxiety of potentially facing negative workplace reaction or legal repercussions down the road. Either way, both parties are stressed out and could use some confidential private help to address their concerns. Don’t advocate for medical help but rather behavioral psychological help.
That’s how you handle it in the workplace. What about on a larger scale such as the situation that Will Smith and Chris Rock faced? The most effective conflict resolution would be the same.
- Address the situation head on.
- If an open dialogue does not occur, then suggest an advisor mediate.
- If this still does not resolve issues, then consider discipline or legal assistance.
- Once this occurs, still keep the offer on the table for both parties to come together to resolve this amicably.
- Listen openly and objectively to the concerns of both sides.
- Offer them both the opportunity to seek private guidance on how to handle the stress or any subsequent trauma. Unresolved trauma can lead to bad longer term impacts.
- Try to minimize the interference of outside parties offering judgment or using the situation for their own gain down the road (such as media replaying the video over and over again or getting the opinions of a diverse group of onlookers). Just like a cop at a car crash, keep the people moving around the scene and keep things peaceful.
- Consider the use of legal assistance to open a dialogue or as a form of future deterrence for outside parties but never use legal assistance for gross personal financial gain at the expense of the other which is a form of retribution. Personal financial gain is acceptable perhaps for defamation but gross personal financial gain can be detrimental to the future of that relationship if either party wants to continue association.
- If violence does occur, then it is the company’s responsibility to deter future occurrences for the safety of all by releasing a statement of what behavior is and is not permitted.