Conflict Management: How to Handle Difficult Employee Conflicts

Conflict is a part of every relationship—even your workplace relationship. But when employees are involved in a difficult conflict, it can drag down productivity, morale and your bottom line.

As a leader, you will no doubt encounter these situations from time to time. Fortunately, with the right tools and techniques, you can smooth it over quickly and get back to running a happy, drama-free team.

Determine the nature and severity of the situation

Understand the nature and causes of conflict. Is it a case of miscommunication, personality clashes, or competition? Or, is it something more serious like harassment or discrimination?

If it’s more serious, check your existing policies on how to fix the problem If you don’t have a policy, consider having a human resources expert help you create one that keeps you in compliance with state and federal laws.

Tip: Homebase HR Pro can help with this. You can speak live with our team of experts who will answer your toughest HR questions, review your policies and help create new ones.

Let your staff handle it

In situations involving miscommunication, personality conflicts, and competition, it may be best to allow your team members to resolve conflicts without intervention. After all, when a manager indulges in petty conflicts, it can add fuel to a fire that might otherwise extinguish itself.

Let your employees know that you value their employment and understand their feelings. Then, redirect the conversation by saying that you trust them and their ability to handle personal conflicts. Often, employees are really looking for validation of their feelings. And addressing them with the problem in mind can often clear up any misunderstandings.

Know when to enter

If workplace conflicts cannot be resolved by employees themselves, you may find that you need to jump in and take action.

Some of the issues that may require management intervention include:

  • Bullying
  • Explicit, threatening, or offensive language
  • Conflict that consistently disrupts productivity or affects morale
  • Humiliating or disrespectful behavior
  • Complaints of discrimination or harassment

Act as a mediator

Sit both the employees together and ask them to answer the questions in front of each other. It encourages a more honest exchange with less exaggeration.

Often, employees realize that they are actually working toward the same goal after hashing out their problems in a productive manner. They just have different opinions on the issue at hand. Once you give them a way to identify the problem, it’s much easier to find a solution.

Find a solution

Once you’ve identified and discussed the problem at hand, work with employees to collectively come up with a solution. All ideas are welcome and discussed in a positive way.

It can help to list the pros and cons for each option and find a scenario that both parties can agree to moving forward. If they can’t come to an agreed conclusion, encourage them to commit to the option you think is best.

Document the incident

Keep track of all details of workplace disputes, including conversations, disciplinary action and any other information related to the problem. Include information and resolutions that employees ultimately agree on so you can monitor behavior progress and keep a pulse on potentially toxic team members.

It is also important to document any incidents if an employee decides to file a complaint against your business.

Follow up

After employees reach a resolution, meet with them a few days or weeks later to discuss how the resolution is going. Make sure there are no lingering problems. And if there are, act quickly to deal with them.

If you need a little extra backup on what to do when employees don’t show up, Homebase can help. Our team of HR experts Available to answer any questions you may have and help you write new policies if problems arise.

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