Four Tips for Managers to Resolve Employee Conflicts
In a work place where all employees are engaged and committed to the company, conflicts and disagreements are inevitable. Culture, ideas, and other personal issues might clash that will result to undesirable employ conflicts. No matter how much we try to avoid this, the scenario is really unavoidable. When this arises, productivity and team work will surely be affected. But, on the brighter side, let us always remember that the most efficient workplaces are not the ones without conflicts, but those workplaces that have people who can handle conflicts constructively. Below, we suggest four ways to handle employee conflicts to ensure the best working environment and performance possible.
Address it Directly, ASAP!
As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Being able to address the issue right away and get to the bottom of things is much better than leaving it and letting the issue grow to epic proportions. It is indeed very tempting to wait for conflict to blow over itself, but it rarely does and in most cases, it only gets worse with time. It is important to note too that most conflicts at work escalate because nobody does anything. Conflicts are easier to solve if they are addressed as early as possible rather than allowing them to stew for a long time.
For managers, carefully observing team members will help in detecting conflicts if there are any. Once the conflict is detected, do not broadcast it to the whole team as this will only create factions; instead address only the involved parties. Let each party tell their story separately at first, listen carefully, and record all the facts. It is important for managers to allow the upset parties to tell their stories. This is a basic principle of mediation and is fundamental to getting the issue resolved. Managers should maintain a very approachable and neutral demeanor so that both parties feel comfortable communicating.
Hear the Arguments of both Sides
The golden rule in solving a conflict is being objective and impartial. As a manager, make sure to speak with the conflicting parties separately to gain their own perspectives on what the tension is all about. Then, discuss with each any emotional information, and most importantly events or specific facts that led up to or inflamed the situation. Be sure to listen closely to both of their arguments against one another. Allow them to release their negative energy, lend them an ear, and act as a trusted colleague as they pour out their emotions — doing so will lessen the tension.
Let them meet Face to Face
Now here comes the tough part. Let them meet face to face with the manager as the mediator. First, the manager should establish a few ground rules before bringing the parties together, including a committment to discuss the situation as civil and professional manner. When all are ready, encourage them to speak to each other and air all of the their grievances. This may be unpleasant but only through this process will everyone understand what the problem is, and again, it is through this that tension will be lessened. By allowing them to talk openly, often new facts surface that the other party was previously unaware of. After hearing all the information from both sides, do the next and final step which is to promote compromise and develop a middle ground.
The last step is really the cure to the disease. After hearing all the facts from both sides, the manager should encourage compromise from both parties. It is a good idea to allow enough time to think over things and examine all the pros and cons for the compromise. Creating this middle ground for both sides is very important because often each side has some concern that the other party could agree with to bridge the gap. But sometimes, in order to fully bridge the gap, one or both parties must be willing to give in a little. This step may take a while because of pride, firm convictions, or differing points of view about how the issue should be resolved. Be flexible and allow things to free flow to be able to finally come up with the most equitable and middle ground to finally resolve the conflict.
There you go! Always remember to address conflicts as early as possible. Leaders should be always on the lookout for possible conflicts lurking in the corners, and employees themselves should have an open relationship with their managers such that they can voice concerns early to avoid letting an issue grow.