Conflicts occur in our workplace daily. And when they do, the conflict rarely impacts just the two people involved. The question is—when is it appropriate for a third party to intervene? It’s always best for the two people to work the conflict out on their own, but sometimes they simply can’t…or won’t.
Anyone who begins to try to help other people in a conflict situation must first come to grips with their own internal conflict about whether or not to intervene. These factors have proven to be important indicators as to the appropriateness of intervening.
• First there is the importance of the issue.
If the issue is extremely important to you or the team/organization, it’s probably worth intervening, even if the other factors listed below are low.
• How important are the relationships?
Even when the issue is less important, if the relationship you have with one or both parties is highly significant to you, you might want to intervene in order to help preserve the relationship(s).
• Consider what would happen if no one intervened?
If you believe the short- or long-range results would be extremely negative, even if neither the issue nor the relationship are important, it might still be advisable to intervene.
• Finally, think about what it is you want in the situation.
Identify your goals in the conflict prior to thinking about helping others. (If you don’t, any attempts you make to resolve the conflict will likely get muddled and the people you’re trying to help may end up feeling manipulated.)
Excerpted from the Leader’s Guide for the CRM program Resolving Conflict.
For more on this topic, check out the CRM Learning program What To Do When Conflict Happens, which features a section on conflict mediation.