As a key manager or a small business owner, learning how to resolve conflict between employees should be one of your priorities. Every now and then, clashing personalities may cause some sort of friction among employees in the workplace. While this is perfectly normal, if nothing’s done to resolve these conflicts, they can worsen and affect everybody in your workplace. It could even bring down the company’s level of efficiency and productivity. Definitely, that’s something you don’t want to happen.
Effective Ways to Resolve Conflict Between Employees
Here you have 10 easy and actionable tips that can help you with your search on how to resolve conflict between your employees, so the rest of your team and your production don’t suffer the consequences.
- Get to the root of the problem. In other words, understand the conflict’s nature. The minute you hear about Tom and Jerry blaming each other and coming to a near fight because of the unfavorable results of a client presentation both were involved in, get in. Start figuring out what started the blame game. Was it a clash of working styles? Stress and frustration, because the stakes riding on the presentation were high? Or, could it simply have been a case of an impossible, never-make-it-easy-for-them type of client? Likewise, businesses run by family members are more susceptible to conflict as personal differences are likely to be carried over to the workplace. Whatever caused the conflict, it’ll be good to get to the bottom of it. Understanding it is essential to successfully resolve the problem and avoiding similar conflicts in the future.
- Resolve conflict fast. Don’t ignore employees’ conflict or it will probably get worse over time. Quite often, a lot of these “I-don’t-like-you” or “I-don’t-like-what-you-did” conflicts between employees don’t fizzle out and go away. They stay and sometimes impact on everyone at the workplace particularly if teamwork or close collaboration is a crucial element in getting projects done. No ifs or buts: if such is the situation, you’ll have to step in and settle the issue before it gets worse and other employees get drawn into the conflict. While resolving it, get the message across that regardless of position and status, all employees are accountable for their behavior and should established standards be breached, disciplinary action may be expected.
- Get those involved in the conflict to work it out themselves (initially). Use your common sense to decide if the situation is simple enough to be solved by the employees themselves, without your direct intervention or the involvement of the Human Resources department. Encourage them to hold an honest and positive conversation. For a more informal approach, this can take place outside the office. Sharing a cup of coffee away from the pressure associated with the workplace can do wonders.
- Set up a meeting. But, if the previous step doesn’t work, you’ll have to schedule a more serious meeting. Urge those involved to have an open, frank and honest talk to work out a resolution between them. You’ll have to put on a facilitator’s hat, get the employees involved in a private room and provide some guidelines reminding them to approach each other with respect and in a positive way. If you have a Human Resources department, have someone with you too. This person can act as a witness and take notes. Be neutral when moderating the discussion. You have to separate your own emotions and your personal preference over one of the employees or your friendship. Let them talk openly. Listen to both sides and be patient, giving them turns to allow them to narrate their side of the story. Concentrate on behavior and issues rather than personalities. At the end of the day, the resolution of the conflict doesn’t have to end in an agreement. In fact, sometimes they can agree to disagree, but with respect. Each must acknowledge and accept this difference of opinion or viewpoint and come up together with an approach on how to move on with their jobs.
- Use your best judgment. It’s one of the most practical ways on how to resolve conflict between employees. You’ll have to come up with a resolution about the case. Once you’ve figured this out, propose a realistic and actionable solution. Let the employees involved know that you’re not insensitive to the whole situation and that you’ll facilitate the means so a conflict like this doesn’t repeat in the future. And if a serious violation has taken place, be firm and act accordingly.
- Respect the privacy of your employees. Don’t share the conflict with other employees who are not directly involved. Sometimes, the nature of the conflict may be delicate, private, and even very serious, like a case of harassment.
- Review your employee handbook. Your guidebook may contain a list of violations and unaccepted behaviors in the workplace, as well as the consequences. Going by the ground rules laid down here and which every employee should be aware of and follow, allows you to be objective in reaching a fair resolution. Your decision, after all, shall have been aligned with the company’s policy as stated in the handbook.
- Document disagreements and resolutions. The employees at odds with each other may or may not like it, but it’s important that such incidents are recorded with factual information. In other words, make out like a journalist reporting who was involved, what it was about, when it happened, where and how it happened. This will also protect your business should the conflict be so severe as to reach the courts.
- Set a follow-up schedule. Part of knowing how to resolve conflict between employees at the workplace is working out a monitoring date to determine whether or not the agreements reached are being followed and to see how the protagonists are getting along. It helps too in determining if the resolution is meeting its favorable expectations. You might want to schedule this meeting date two or three weeks after the resolution of the problem.
- Be a role model. Always set behavioral standards. Do this not only for workers at odds with each other but also for those who are not. If employees can see you’re building a corporate culture of respect for one another – if they can see you’re working towards a work environment anchored on integrity, professionalism and open and honest communication, in all likelihood they will follow suit. Also, employee conflict could bring you the opportunity to do an introspective exercise and analyze yourself as a manager: is the deep reason of the conflict the fact that you openly show your preference for some employees? Are you too demanding with others? Have you set up unrealistic expectations causing stress and friction among your employees? As you analyze the nature of the conflict, analyze yourself and your role in your company too.
Learning how to resolve conflict between employees at the workplace is part and parcel of good management. Remember conflict is not necessarily negative: different ideas and points of view can lead to productive discussions and add diversity to your team. Managing conflicts in your company can bring you the opportunity to evaluate other aspects of your business, like your role as a manager. Lastly, when conflict presents, it brings you the opportunity to implement creative and effective ways to keep your employees motivated.
We hope this article provided you with some insights on how to resolve conflict in the most effective way. Remember to subscribe to the Camino Financial newsletter: it’s rich with useful business management information and more tips, tools, and resources that can help you better manage your business to make it grow.