Even the most laid-back office will have a conflict in the workplace from time to time. Whether your office is small, large, or somewhere in between, it’s important to think about how to effectively handle disputes between employees so you’re prepared when it’s time to diffuse a tense situation. To gain more insight into mediating workplace conflict, follow these tips.

Allow cool down time

If a heated discussion in the workplace arises, it’s important to let the employees cool down before attempting to bring them in for mediation. While it should be noted that abuse of any sort should not be tolerated, everyone needs time to clear their head after getting into an argument. When you’ve determined that all parties have calmed down enough to have a constructive conversation, it’s time to bring them into the HR office for mediation.

Listen to employees

Instead of letting employees’ negative feelings fester, make it known that they should feel free to approach the managers or HR staff to speak openly about concerns in the office. An office is most efficient when co-workers are able to establish clear communication and work well together.

When employees have a safe space to talk freely about potential conflicts, it’s much easier to quell conflicts when they arise. Establishing open communication between the office staff and HR department can go a long way towards fostering an office-wide positive attitude.

Insist on civility

Even if there’s a serious conflict in the workplace, that’s no excuse for anyone in the office to raise their voice or use offensive language. It’s the role of the managerial and HR staff to establish clear rules for the office and enforce these rules.

If you feel that it would be helpful, post conflict resolution rules on the walls of the HR office so employees can easily refer to the guidelines. If employees are unsure of how to handle conflict in the workplace, it becomes much more difficult to yield positive results.

Encourage communication

In most cases, conflict is a result of poor communication. If two members of the office feel tension towards each other, it’s important to encourage clear communication between the two people. In any workplace, all members of the staff should be able to speak with each other honestly and openly while maintaining composure.

Of course, there will be instances of conflict that are legitimate and unavoidable, and these instances should be addressed. However, most conflict can be prevented or easily fixed simply by promoting conversation between employees.

Use conflict as a tool for learning

When there’s conflict within the office, remember that this is acceptable and expected if the conflict is handled in a positive way. People who work together for eight or more hours per day are bound to disagree at some point.

When it’s time for conflict resolution, try to see this in a positive light and don’t be alarmed. All conflicts can be used as a learning opportunity: a chance for co-workers to get to know each other better and to work together to come to a solution that’s mutually beneficial.