In any workplace, even the most harmonious of environments can become laden with conflict and arguments. When this happens, it can often lead to the need for resolution of a dispute that might be beyond the capabilities of the managers to work through the dispute to finding a resolution. However, when there is willingness to resolve, there are always creative solutions to the dispute at hand.

So, what are your options in solving a workplace dispute? Here are some of the strategies utilized in workplaces.

Solution #1 – Investigation

When there is a clear right and wrong, and there is ample proof and testimony to prove this, the most open/shut cases will come from an investigations and disciplinary process. This often ensures that the guilty party is disciplined in the terms socially acceptable for their own behaviour. The victim will then be given the support needed to overcome the dispute and get back to working in a normal, happy environment.

Work Place Investigation and disciplinary actions is the most common means of solving an open/shut case – but is there more behind the situation that requires further discussion and resolution? What can you do to make sure this doesn’t happen again? How does the rest of the team feel? Is there a cultural change that needs to happen?

Solution #2 – Discussion

Of course, not all workplace disputes need to lead to disciplinary action. Often, dialogue and the chance for both parties to clear the air with the help of a HR Manager or Supervisor can be the best starting point. This is often approached by senior management who act as a referee to help determine the best way to smooth things over, but that’s not always the best form of action.

There is a lot of value in having an independent person brought in that understands the why and how of disputes, asks the right questions and also how to effectively resolve them. It’s important that all parties involved in the disputes are given the opportunity to talk freely about what has happened and having management involved at this level can sometimes hinder and not help. Their role should be to be the person responsible to oversee that the outcome is sustainable and performance manage their staff. Not risk taking sides with one over another and jeopardising the productivity and value of one if not both.

Solution #3 – Mediation

After many years taking matters through the Court system as a lawyer, SHAW Dispute Resolution CEO Alison Shaw, has seen how long and arduous taking matters through the courts system is, and wholeheartedly believes that mediation is the best solution to help resolve disputes including work place disputes. Used correctly, mediation can help make sure that there is a clear and proven process that is fair and a sustainable outcome achieved for not just those involved but the business as a whole. Mediation is used to help both sides listen to the other and be heard, giving all people the same level of credence and the right opportunity to speak about the problems they face. It may be that both are facing frustrations that can be fixed with their creativity and managers input. It’s about finding solutions, in the best possible way for the business. Take the present situation with the Sydney Rail strike. This situation spent so much time in the news. Communication broke down, staff weren’t feeling heard, and as the media storm got bigger and louder, it got way out of hand. This is likely to cost as much as $100m in the damage that it will cause. However, with the right kind of mediation, all relevant interests could have been identified and then explored to help better understand the real situation. Mediation and negotiation would have been a great way to try and sort it before it got to workers reducing services, causing chaos in Sydney.

Free from one side holding bias over the other, and to avoiding political game playing, mediation could play a key role in overcoming these issues and finding an amicable solution in the right environment. The commuters suffered due to people thinking they know best and a lack of dispute strategies such as mediation. The issue got much bigger than it needed to be, with ramifications ongoing.

Don’t think that there is never a solution: through mediation, workplace problems can be resolved with the right mindset, focus and willingness.

Let’s Resolve!