Employer Branding

How to Have a Productive Argument at Work

The beautiful thing about working in human resources is all the people you get to deal with in your working day. Counterpoint: the painful thing about working in human resources is all those people you have to deal with every single day.

People can be wonderful, but when they fail to meet expectations the ball often ends up back in HR’s court. Dealing with productivity or disciplinary shortcomings often involves a clash of opinion, and if it lingers on for a while matters can erupt into an argument. So how can you ensure these high-pressure moments work out positively for everyone?

Planning for war

When a confrontation has become unavoidable, it is best to arrange a meeting and distribute an agenda to give everyone a heads-up. Prepare yourself by researching facts and stats on the issues involved, which is likely to mean comparing contracts and written or verbal agreements/targets with what’s actually been achieved.

As an HR pro, empathy is your secret weapon, so make sure to try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Think about the counter-arguments they might come up with, and how best to respond to them. This will save you regretting missed opportunities after the meeting, or may even help you to understand the situation in a new light.

The field of play

Some people find conflict super-difficult. Whether you become frustrated, nervous, or angry, it can be difficult to stay in control when tension is high. But keeping your body language open and your voice calm and quiet will give your arguments more ‘authority’ by helping you win the trust of the other person. It will also help you to think straight when the going gets tough.

Even in a disciplinary matter, be careful not to use over-personal language. Talk about specific actions rather than blaming the other person’s character traits. Refer to your research to illustrate how boundaries have been crossed. If things start to become heated, you can always suggest a break; and if the other person isn’t opening up, it might be worth relocating to a more neutral ground.

Visuals are always a great help. They make your points seem more ‘real,’ and are hard to argue with when up on the board in black and white. Again, you can make the other person feel involved and that they have a voice by allowing them to contribute to the visuals, for example by listing the pros and cons of a decision you’re trying to make together.

The aftermath

Your argument was never about ‘winning,’ but about getting the best outcome for all involved. Still, often somebody will end up feeling shortchanged, the victim of an injustice, or offended. Make sure to be open about the channels of communication and conflict resolution that are available. Apologize if you were wrong or said something out of line. And be sure to keep a record of what was said and agreed, in case the issue should flare up again in the future.

If you weren’t able to bring the meeting to a satisfactory conclusion, it may also be worth bringing in a mediator from inside or outside or holding the meeting again with each party inviting an advocate to back up their points and keep things civil. It can also be worth setting a few rules before moving forward, covering things like the right to interrupt each other or not to share the details of the meeting with colleagues or on social media.

But if you follow the guidelines in this new infographic, it should be possible to bring things to a good conclusion – and to go back to your love affair with the human race.

About the author: John Cole writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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