Interview with Oksana Debolskaya, HR BP, XPO Logistics. About telecommuting, conflict resolution and effective communication

Actually 49% of employees in small and medium-sized businesses experienced conflict at work during the pandemic. What do you think contributed most to the deterioration in communication?

In general, if you look at the conflict situation in normal times, the percentage of conflicts is not much lower. There have been various studies, mostly by foreign scientists, which said that managers spend almost half their time settling disputes and disagreements of their subordinates.

If we go back to the pandemic, the main factor in the increase in conflicts is related to the fact that people were under constant stress. Because of the global changes in the economy, because of the restructuring of business processes in enterprises. And of course, because of the risk of getting sick and fear for their own lives and the lives of their loved ones.
All this provoked emotional outbursts: on the whole, people were more irritable, tense, and less patient.Plus the struggle for limited resources - in a crisis situation this limitation is felt much more acutely.

Is it possible to measure and work with the mood of the team remotely to avoid conflicts?

Of course, you can measure the mood of the team remotely by conducting surveys, collecting feedback, asking how satisfied people are with the interaction with their colleagues, how they assess the atmosphere in the team. You can ask them directly if they encounter any conflict situations.

But really, every manager knows where and what conflicts occur. Often people first try to resolve the conflict on an interpersonal level, and if it doesn't work out, they definitely get to the manager. It's always the way things work in a company, some kind of hierarchy, and people try to pull as many resources and support to their side as possible.

So managers usually know where the most difficult relationships, the biggest problems and uncertainties are.

You can also look at what work issues there are contradictions and disagreements around. Work practice itself will tell you where to look. Where there's failure, something doesn't work out, there's a delay, there's often some contradiction or conflict on an interpersonal level.

Tell us a little about conflict resolution and prevention in companies. Why are you interested in this topic?

About a year ago there was the famous "HR Voice" award, on which the third place, if I am not mistaken, was taken by a case about conflict resolution in the company. A girl from Belarus talked about how she tried to identify conflicts, communicate with employees, bring the discussion to the management level, in order to resolve the increasing number of conflicts.

There was no methodological basis in this case study. In essence, one person was trying to help people who were at odds and disagreements with their colleagues with their own resources. The most interesting thing is that in this case there was no talk of systemic work at all. It was just situational, point-by-point support.

And I was shocked that this obvious and simple case found such a strong resonance in the hearts of my colleagues.

I don't mean to say it's a bad case, but it struck me that the community singled it out as particularly important. I understand why this topic is relevant to business, but it turns out that the HR community doesn't know how to approach a conflict topic at all.

It so happens that our society does not like to discuss conflicts. And although this topic is not a taboo, it has such a pronounced negative charge, that people will not even admit that they have a conflict with someone. For them to admit that you have a conflict is like admitting that you are a five-minute psychiatric patient. People will stubbornly prove that there is no conflict, even though it is obvious to everyone that people have a hostile attitude toward each other. It turns out that as long as there is not yet a scuffle and as long as there is not yet a criminal code, there is no conflict.

All this spills over into the organization and not everyone is able to deal with this subject and not everyone is able to sort it all out. Conflicts mostly relate to the activities of a manager, and HR can only deal with them when somebody quits their job.

t turns out that companies often mean the entertainment of employees, "congratulations", interteaching, which is not bad and is also necessary. But they miss the main thing - the conflicts.

As a result of unresolved conflicts, not only relations between individual employees deteriorate, but there can be huge fakapos, because of which clients leave, people get fired and turnover occurs. It's a huge waste of resources and a huge amount of time while they're trying to talk things through, understand, and figure them out.

In 2014 I faced a number of systemic conflicts and contradictions at work, and I did not understand how to solve them. At the same time, I was looking for an opportunity to get a psychology degree. And I came across a master's program on the topic of mediation - conflict mediation. I decided to study and immediately put my knowledge into practice.

Since then, I have had several cases in different companies, where I have implemented the principles of mediation.

On March 2 you will present the case "How to implement conflict prevention system in hr-processes" at the HR-Communication online conference. How will it be useful for HR-community?

My presentation will not be about a specific case. I am more interested in telling the community about the principles of mediation, and how with their help almost any case can be solved, regardless of the corporate culture in the company and any conflicts. This is a universal scheme, which I have tried out on companies in various areas of business.

I would like to talk about what mediation is, how it can be implemented in the HR system for conflict prevention, and how to set up a system that will allow conflicts to almost never develop.

I hope that this topic will be useful for my colleagues. Mediation is not yet widespread enough, but by working together we can reduce tensions in business and move towards a civilized culture in the work of our companies.