Conflict among employees can quickly drive down productivity and damage the morale of the whole team. When you’re in a leadership role, employee conflict management falls to you. This means implementing and enforcing conflict resolution strategies, mediating disputes when needed and working to stop minor conflicts from becoming major conflicts. The key to effective employee conflict management is having the knowledge and training to be prepared to handle conflicts when they arise.
Encourage Open Communication
Before a conflict even arises, encourage every member of your team to openly communicate with you. Knowing that leaders are genuinely interested in their concerns can sometimes stop team members from getting entangled in disputes with each other. Having regular one-on-one meetings with team members can help to build trust and makes it more likely they’ll let you know if something important is going on that’s affecting their performance or productivity.
Give Employees a Chance to Work Things Out
It’s unrealistic for managers to get involved every time there’s a minor disagreement. If you do try to step in every time two employees disagree about something, your staff is likely to feel micromanaged. Minor disagreements should be able to be resolved between the individuals involved if possible.
An important part of effective employee conflict management is recognizing when it’s time to step in. Some examples of situations that require manager involvement include allegations of harassment, bullying or discrimination, employees treating each other with disrespect or disputes that are affecting other members of the team.
Listen to Both Sides
Once you’ve decided it’s time to get involved, arrange a meeting to allow both parties to present their side of the dispute without interruption. During this meeting, you should remain neutral and practice active listening, which involves taking notes, asking questions and repeating back to them your understanding of what they’ve said.
The goal of this meeting isn’t to decide who’s right or wrong. The goal is to look for common ground and find a solution that works for everyone. The focus should be on the problem, not on the individuals involved. Brainstorm multiple solutions and try to find one that allows each person to get part of what they want.
Determining Next Steps
Sometimes employees are willing to be cooperative once they feel like their concerns have been heard. If it’s determined that the root of the disagreement was a misunderstanding about who was responsible for what, clarifying roles and responsibilities may be all it takes to reestablish a peaceful working environment.
Problems that go deeper may take longer to solve. Decide what the next steps should be and schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss how well the solutions are working for everyone involved. Make additional changes if necessary. If no progress has been made, it may be time to take further action.
When employees continue to be unable to resolve their differences, you may need to involve your HR department to discuss whether disciplinary action is needed. HR needs to be involved in issues such as bullying or harassment. You may also need to reach out to HR if one of your employees is threatening to quit or if employees continue to treat each other with disrespect.
Resolving conflicts can be challenging and each conflict is a little bit different. Learning the skills needed for effective employee conflict management can take time and practice. In some conflicts, employees benefit from impartial mediation by a third party. Experts in the field of conflict resolution are skilled at facilitating this type of meeting and can guide employees in working through differences.
For training in becoming more proficient in the skills needed to be a peaceful leader, contact Peaceful Leaders Academy.