How to Manage Employee Conflict: Tips for New Managers

In any company, new managers have a lot to learn. One thing that you need to learn sooner rather than later is how to manage employee conflict. Disagreements are going to happen in the workplace at some point, and when staff does not get along, it affects productivity and morale. Negative energy can quickly spread and it’s your job to keep it in check and to restore a peaceful work environment.

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Ignoring the Problem Doesn’t Make It Go Away

Conflict between staff members is sometimes minor and easily worked out without intervention, but other types of conflict intensify until the workplace becomes toxic and everyone nearby is affected. Your team looks to you as manager to bring this type of situation under control, and while you may hope if you ignore it, the problem will go away, that isn’t likely to happen. Be prepared to intervene when conflict is worsening.

Control Your Own Attitude and Emotions

There are a variety of different ways managers may deal with employee conflict. No matter which approach that you take, keep your emotional reactions under control. Your staff wants to see you control the situation, and if you melt down with rage or defensiveness, you will quickly lose the respect or trust of some of your employees. Stay calm no matter how explosive the situation may seem. If there is no immediate conflict, projecting a positive and optimistic attitude can rub off on those around you.

Get to the Root of the Problem

When conflict erupts, it is important to find out exactly what the problem is. There may have been a simple misunderstanding, or teammates may not have clearly defined roles and are experiencing confusion. Get those who are involved in conflict to sit down with you away from the rest of the staff to discuss what is causing the problem. Practice active listening which includes asking questions and repeating back what you’re hearing. This can help staff feel heard and it helps you to be sure you understand what’s going on.

Let those in conflict know that there is to be no interrupting each other, screaming or treating each other with disrespect. You’re all on the same team, and everyone needs to work together to find a solution that works for everyone involved. This may mean there has to be compromise and that each may get part of what they want but not all of it.

Good and Bad Conflict

Not all conflict is bad. There are times when disagreements stimulate ideas and staff members should be encouraged to express their perspectives and ideas. There are also times when your efforts to help staff work through disagreements are unsuccessful. If that happens, you may have to involve your HR department. A good way to work through tough conflicts and restore peace is by hiring an outside company that specializes in conflict resolution. You may want them to act as an impartial mediator, especially if either of the parties in conflict believes there’s been favoritism.

Learning More About How to Manage Employee Conflict

New managers should be prepared to admit that they may not have all the answers and seek out opportunities to learn more about managing conflict that may come up between employees. Classes and workshops in conflict resolution, communication and other leadership skills are offered in person and online. Working with a mentor or coach is a great way to get feedback on how you’re handling challenging situations that you face as a new manager.

Get in touch with Pollack Peacebuilding Systems to learn more about conflict resolution services or training.

Valerie Dansereau

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