Agree to Disagree – Handle Workplace Conflict Respectfully

Matt| October 14, 2015| Managers

Employee conflict rarely happens in a vacuum. In fact, sometimes other workers can unwillingly be pulled into conflicts. If your workforce begins to combat each other, their stress increases as morale decreases and the quality of work drops off. Management may begin to feel helpless, not wanting to choose sides. However, managers are best suited to help mitigate employee conflict.

Developing an open line of communication with your staff, both permanent and temporary, can help you discover the root of the conflict. When repeatedly put into practice, open communication can even prevent conflict from happening in the first place. Following are five ways to communicate with your staff so you can manage, and hopefully prevent, workplace conflict.

5 Ways to Manage Employee Conflict

  1. Speak with each employee privately. Give your employees a chance to confide in you about how the conflict started and why they are stressed. Don’t judge their feelings or limit the way they express themselves. Be an unbiased listener. After they’ve finished unloading, ask them what kind of compromise they’d be willing to make.
  1. Moderate with empathy. Bring the employees together and facilitate a discussion. If emotions start to rise, take a break. Encourage them to be open with how this conflict makes them feel, then attempt to get each person to empathize with the other’s perspective. Most importantly, don’t criticize the person; rather, analyze the action. When a behavior or comment is voiced, ask the employee to explain what they meant at the time. In historically volatile cases, be sure an HR representative is present at all times.
  1. Trace it back to the beginning. Have the employees walk backward through the conflict to discover the true cause. Sometimes it’s simply a miscommunication and unintentional harm might have been done. Maybe one employee’s repeated behavior, such as leaving food on the desk or talking loudly on the phone, has rubbed another employee the wrong way. In some cases you may have a manipulative or vindictive employee on your hands. The only way to find out is to follow the employees back to the beginning.
  1. Brainstorm together to resolve the conflict. The conflict will need to be solved, and the best resolution is one that everyone deems fair. Brainstorm to come up with a compromise that satisfies all parties. Be sure the resolution takes into consideration everyone’s feelings, needs and priorities. By allowing your employees to help create the resolution, you’re making certain that each person feels they’ve been heard and respected.
  1. Ensure communication is part of your company culture. Provide your employees with communication tools that allow them to avoid conflict with open discussions. Lunch time trainings or seminars on interpersonal communication can help your employees use strategies to work more harmoniously. If they train together they’ll be coming from the same foundation of conflict management. This education helps make communication much more effective.

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