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Are We the Unsung Heroes of Conflict Resolution?

If I could write an inscription for the HR Statue of Liberty it would read:

Give me your angry, your frustrated,
Your livid executives, yearning to breathe free of,
The wretched refuse of your performance systems,
Send these, the passionate, self-righteous senior leaders,
I raise my emotional walls to quell your drama.

Who teaches HR on how to deal with conflict? I may be dated but it was not in my course material! Much of what I learned was either the hard way, watching others strategize or from reading!

Key learning for me was: “Don’t take the bait!” Getting angry or annoyed leads to loss of impulse control which just seems to unleash the feeding frenzy and ratchet up the drama. Not recommended!

On the other hand staying calm and repeating back the facts without the “f*#)ing idiot” and other colourful adjectives generally helped me focus enough to figure out what really was the problem.

I’ve also learned that staring blankly at someone who is frothing at the mouth is not well received. Somehow no reaction means the story and frothing must be repeated another 6 times since I obviously don’t hear very well. That ever happen to you? Even if I fail to see the issue, because there is none, I must still nod and listen with empathy. “Yes, I can see that really upset you.”

Our magic is really heading off the conflict before it even occurs. Like the Poirot mystery where he must solve a crime that has not yet happened HR comes to the rescue quite often. Keeping the peace successfully is a thankless job though. Without irritation, slamming doors and flying papers all around us our efforts seem to be invisible. Perhaps you have heard all about your “cushy” job where you can chat all day and drink coffee. Uh huh?

To work in HR is to be in the midst of endless disputes of varying magnitude. Through it all we must be professional and not allow ourselves to become jaded. Let’s give ourselves some credit for the difficult work we do. HR professionals really are the unsung heroes of conflict resolution.


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