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I was listening to Evan Davis on BBC Radio 4 the other day and in his programme ‘The Bottom Line’ he discussed the issues around Managing Conflict in the workplace.

It was interesting to hear other mediation professionals discuss the problems they encounter, and I could clearly relate with to their experiences. What particularly struck me was when David Liddel (TMC Group) talked about people not wanting to mediate. People just don’t want to talk about it. I regularly have this in my practice.  Business owners and managers may have been dealing with an issue for a long time.  It becomes the norm and affects everyone around them.  But they would rather stick their head in the sand and soldier on, than actually talk to the relevant person about what is causing the underlying issue, so that it can be addressed and potentially resolved.

One of the main problems with workplace conflict is that we leave the situation until the tension or dispute is so far down the line that it’s hard to see another way. We are so used to blaming someone else that the idea of talking it through, in a safe space, seems preposterous. Our systems and process within the workplace support this culture.  We value the wrong sort of behaviours. The grievance procedures in many organisations are outdated and create, rather than resolve our conflict issues, apportioning blame rather than dealing with the real problems. It’s talking it through and understanding the common ground that really matters, rather than positions and posturing.

The important thing is to manage conflicts better and not to avoid them. It takes a brave person to choose to sit and listen to the other party. They don’t have to agree with them, but at least they have a better understanding and may therefore be able to interpret messages in a different and more constructive way.

Well done Evan Davis for choosing this subject to debate.  People need to become much more aware of alternative forms of conflict resolution, particularly at a time when our own political leaders are demonstrating behaviours that most organisations would not tolerate within their businesses.