4 Tips For Managing Staff Conflict

Managing staff conflict is not one of the more pleasant aspects of being a manager or team leader, but it is part of the job. How you manage various conflicts is key, as it can either facilitate a more open, honest, happy work environment…or not. To ensure you stick to the effective management side of things, review the following tips.

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Maintain an Open Door Policy

While your office door does not always *have* to be open to implement this policy, it’s a good thing to emphasize. An open door policy lets your team know that you are here to listen to them at any time, which can prevent small issues from becoming big problems. Employees who feel they cannot communicate with their managers are more likely to keep their issues to themselves, which breeds resentment, silence, and an unhealthy work environment. Conversely, team members who know that you are ready to help them with whatever work-related problem they have encourages honesty and openness for a more harmonious professional environment.

Focus on the Facts

Managing staff conflict effectively requires focusing on the facts, not opinions and personal feelings. You might have to do a bit of proverbial digging to determine what is truly causing the issue and why, which often requires speaking with both parties privately before having a group mediation session. After learning the facts of the case, you can devise a solution that benefits both parties, assuming your assistance is required. Wanting to understand the facts also demonstrates your impartiality, since favoritism accusations do not contribute to efficient resolutions or a tranquil, professional workplace.

Determine Whether the Issue Needs Your Help

Once you understand what the conflict is about, it’s time to determine whether your assistance is needed. There are plenty of small issues employees can work out themselves, which shows you aren’t going to micromanage every problem that crops up. This demonstrates your faith in your team and the respect you have for their ability to deal with issues quickly and effectively. However, it is still important to emphasize that you are here for any problems that cannot be resolved among the employees. Examples of times when it’s important to step in include:

  • Any issue relating to bullying or sexual harassment
  • Use of language that is aggressive or threatening
  • Discrimination allegations
  • Productivity disruptions
  • Problems that affect team morale
  • Teasing that becomes increasingly offensive or disrespectful
  • Issues that divide your workforce, increase turnover, and result in negative publicity

Depending on the severity of the problem, it might be a good idea to enlist outside professional help. An experienced mediator can prove invaluable, since employees typically feel more comfortable speaking openly in front of someone they do not know because there is no risk of impartiality.

Document the Problem

If an issue requires your attention, you’ll want to document it for HR purposes. Taking notes and turning them into official documents is a good idea, because you can reference the paperwork in the event of future issues. For example, say an employee is accused of bullying but agrees to attend anger management classes to remain employed. However, that same employee continues to use offensive language around various team members, making them uncomfortable. A documented record of this individual’s prior bullying issues provides grounds for further investigations and a possible termination.

Dealing with staff conflict efficiently and effectively also requires maintaining a positive attitude, since it helps the employees involved feel comfortable and relaxed. The more nervous and fearful they feel, the less likely they are to be forthcoming.

For help with managing staff conflict, please contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today!

Kent McGroarty

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