When should I seek help in resolving conflicts between my employees?

There are some circumstances in which you really should seek help. For example, if there is a threat of violence, if you've tried to mediate and failed, or if a major corporate issue is involved.

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If you are to resolve conflicts between your employees, you need to have the trust of the parties involved. If that trust is lacking, it is unlikely that mediation will work. No matter how you promise to be flexible in working with the disputants to find a mutually acceptable solution, they will go into the mediation process with doubts about your neutrality.

Can you remain neutral? That is the question you need to ask yourself. Here are some other questions to ask. If the answer is yes even to a single question, then you should consider going to Human Resources or seeking another third party to mediate the conflict:

- Do I have preconceived views about the people I have been asked to help?

- Do I have preconceived ideas about the type of situation I have been asked to help with?

- Is a close friend or relative involved?

- Does my job make it difficult for me to remain neutral?

- Is there no way to deal with these relationships so that everyone feels I can still be of help?

- Do I feel I need to stick up for the underdog?

- Is corporate policy involved, and if so will I have to defend that poUcy?

- If the individuals involved have ideas that I think are wrong, will I speak up?

- If I think the plan won't work or won't last, will I say so?

- Does any group I belong to make it hard for me to look neutral?

- What if a party in the conflict becomes angry enough to threaten violence, will I speak up?

How do I handle my boss if she is a bully?

There will be occasions when you and your boss won't agree. The key to surviving these situations is not to let them "get to you" personally. Your goal should be to maintain a harmonious working relationship with your manager, even in moments of high stress or confusion about your authority.

What if your boss is impossible to work with? If in good times and bad, your boss can be too temperamental or engages in regular shouting matches with you and others and, in your opinion, it is impossible for you and your manager to have a healthy, harmonious working relationship most of the time, if at all—then it may be time to look elsewhere for a job.

Before you take that step, however, you may want to take the situation to Human Resources. In presenting your situation:

- Stick to the facts.

- Provide insights to help your manager rethink the logic behind his or her case.

- Know when to back off.

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Stick to the facts. Base your case on numbers, events, or documents that can be objectively studied. You may see your manager as a bully but don't cast aspersions or take potshots before Human Resources. On the other hand, you should be prepared to answer questions from the Human Resources Department, the degree of its doubt dependent upon your past work relationship with others.

Provide insights to help your manager rethink the logic behind his or her case. Human Resources will be aiming to have both you and your superior rethink the logic behind the situation. Ideally, you should both be willing to see the situation from the other's viewpoint. If you come on too strong, you can make both your manager and the Human Resources Department deaf to your side of the situation.

Some managers may be bullies but unaware of their behavior. You don't need to face yours with that allegation. Such a term will act like a match to a stack of kindling. If it doesn't ignite the kindling, it will set the stage for a major conflagration in the future.

Know when to back off. Is it clear that your manager will continue to behave as he or she has? Further, can you see that the Human Resources Department will not intervene? They often take the manager's side, especially if his or her department's performance is exceptional, and it is a matter of one person's word against another. Then you may have no other option but to move elsewhere within the organization or leave unless you are willing to jump when he or she says "jump" and take his or her verbal abuse.

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