For every business owner, the dream is to run a positive workplace environment where employees work together in perfect harmony, a place where employees encourage, teach and motivate one another to work towards a common business goal. Sounds like a fairy tale, right? That’s because it’s not easy to achieve. Workplaces are made up of individuals with differing personalities, ideas and ways of working. As a result of this, unfortunately, employees don’t always get along as well as you would like, with even the most patient and understanding of employees being pushed to their limits and airing their upset and frustrations at a colleague. Although conflict isn’t ideal, it is important as it can highlight problem areas and issues within the business which can allow you to put solutions in place to help your team grow and improve.
As a business owner, it is important to know how to effectively deal with and handle a conflict between employees before it can erupt and start to affect the morale of other employees and business operations.
Operate an ‘open-door’ policy
This can be seen as more as a preventative tip rather than a way to solve conflict, but is a vital point to make. As cliche as it may sound, by operating an ‘open-door’ policy it encourages communication from your team and allows them to approach you if they have any issues to discuss. This tactic makes you aware of what is happening within the business and enables you to address and tackle a situation or issue with a solution to settle it before it becomes and major conflict.
Encourage employees to arrange a time to meet in a neutral setting, either with or without supervision to discuss their grievances. Ensure that each person has the opportunity to say what they want to say without being interrupted or controlled and encourage constructive communication. It is important to recognise that this is not an opportunity for individuals to assign blame to or attack others. As a manager, this allows you to uncover and get to the heart of the problem in order to truly understand it. By fully understanding the situation and identifying why it may have arisen, you may be able to prevent the same or a similar occurrence from happening in the future by putting measures in place for employees to follow.
Reach an agreement
Once all the issues have been aired and all sides of the conflict have been established, as part of the communication process, you should also encourage employees to try to come to an agreement on how to move forward. Encourage them to try and find common ground or circumstances where they agree and try to build on from there.
It is in everyone's interests to try and solve the issue quickly and effectively as the longer a conflict goes on, the harder it is to resolve and the more likely it is to cause permanent damage to the workforce, morale and productivity of the team.
From listening to employees, it may become apparent that some changes in management may need to be made. Take some time to analyse how the management team work alongside the conflict issues that have arisen. It may be that you need to clearly define a new set of guidelines or procedures that will help alleviate future conflict such as guidelines around delegation, responsibilities, training procedures, shift patterns or appraisal systems.
If none of the above steps are successful in resolving the conflict, a final option in an attempt to reach a solution is to consult a commercial litigation solicitor to act as an external mediator to try and assess any challenging behaviour from an external point of view and to suggest a positive resolution that will work on behalf of all the parties involved and that is in the best interests of the business.
Guest post courtesy of James Flynn. From a young age, James discovered a love for writing and began creating fictional stories in his bedroom. Fast-forward 24 years and he is now an experienced writer having worked in content producing roles across various sectors such as fashion, technology, finance, and healthcare. In early 2018, James launched his own freelance content writing business to continue his love of writing and feed his ever-growing portfolio.