Gale McGloin

Friday, 28 June 2002 08:02

Resolving disputes

Countless hours of managerial time and resources are consumed each day by situations involving conflict, employee/employee or employee/employer disputes, harassment or grievance issues and irate customers dissatisfied with your service.

Morale suffers. Customers cancel orders. It gets expensive.

Conflict is normal, but the way it is handled determines if the outcome is constructive or destructive. According to the Conflict Resolution Education Network, when it is handled ineffectively, it can escalate into physical and emotional violence. When it is handled constructively, it creates opportunities for communication and positive problem solving.

Here are tips to effectively deal with confrontations.

* Take charge of your emotions. Remain calm. The only person you have control of is yourself. Don't let people push your buttons. Choose how you react. Don't assume someone is deliberately provoking you. There may be something else going on.

* Allow the other person to save face. Decide if this is the time and place to talk. When possible, give the other person a choice.

* Model the behavior you expect. Let the other person go first. Be respectful. Don't interrupt. Look attentive. Listen to what he or she is trying to tell you. Repeat what you heard to make sure you got it right.

* Focus on the behavior, not the person. Avoid the blame game. Focus your comments on how you see the situation, not on what's wrong with the other person. Describe the problem from your point of view. Explain the impact of the problem behavior.

* Enlist the other person in finding a solution. Once the problem is clear, ask if there is any way you can work it out together. Brainstorm ways to solve it and choose solutions that meet the needs of both of you.

* Make sure everyone understands what they have agreed to do. Gale McGloin is executive director of the Pittsburgh Mediation Center, a resource for conflict resolution in Western Pennsylvania which offers training in conflict resolution and mediation skills to adults and youth of all ages. For more information, call (412) 365-0400, e-mail or visit