In a perfect world, the workplace would always be a peaceful environment and you wouldn’t have to worry about disputes or disagreements between employees. It’s a nice fantasy for a moment, but let’s get back to reality and think about what’s needed when dealing with employee conflict.

Wherever people interact, particularly when they interact for several hours daily, day after day, there’s bound to be conflict. If you’re in a leadership role, putting your head in the sand isn’t an option. Employee conflict has to be dealt with because if it’s ignored, there’s a good chance it may get worse.

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Bring Employees in Conflict Together

Find a private place where you can bring together the employees that are arguing or not getting along. Let them know you recognize that there’s a problem and that the purpose of the meeting is to work together to find a solution. The first thing you need to do is determine what triggered the conflict and what needs to be done to find a solution that everyone can agree on.

Practice Active Listening and Remain Calm

Keep a handle on your own emotions and reactivity. Throughout the meeting, project a positive attitude. Stay calm and let your employees know you expect them to do the same. Make sure they understand that dramatic outbursts won’t be tolerated. Practice active listening to make sure you clearly understand the problem. This can include taking notes and asking questions to clarify what is being said.

Each of the conflicting parties should be given an opportunity to express what they’re thinking without interruption, and each should be given approximately the same amount of time to say their piece. This avoids any appearance that you may be taking sides.

Brainstorm Possible Solutions

Work together to brainstorm possible solutions. Stay focused on the problem and not on personality differences or personal attacks. A good way to work toward a solution is by having each person repeat back what the other has expressed, which requires them to listen to each other rather than just focusing on their own perspective. Sometimes knowing they’re being heard and that their perspectives are being acknowledged can help to make people more willing to work toward a peaceful resolution.

Solutions may not be obvious right away in every conflict. Work toward finding a common ground that each person can live with. If possible, try to find a way to compromise so that each party gets at least part of what they want.

Follow Up to See if There’s Been Progress

Deciding on the next steps doesn’t mean the conflict has been completely resolved. Schedule a follow-up meeting to check if things are progressing in the right direction and if there are any complications or new complaints. Keep an eye on the situation and make sure those that have been in conflict are working peacefully together and treating each other with respect.

Recognize When You Need Help Dealing with Employee Conflict

Employee conflict sometimes continues to worsen in spite of your efforts to work toward a peaceful solution.  When problems continue to resurface, disagreements can affect productivity and morale for not only those in conflict but for everyone else around them. You may need to involve your HR department if the conflict becomes a repeated or ongoing trend.

Conflict resolution services are available from people who are specially trained to act as impartial mediators. This may include facilitated dialogue and individual coaching as well as conflict intervention methods that aim to reduce current issues and prevent future conflicts.

Reach out to Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today for conflict resolution services, training or coaching.

Valerie Dansereau

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