Putting Out the Fire: Dealing With Conflict in Your Workplace

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Feb 26, 2015

How many times have you witnessed conflict between employees create uncomfortable tension at work?

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, the fire continues to burn, greatly affecting the atmosphere, which in turn affects everyone’s productivity.

The truth of the matter is that on-the-job conflict is unavoidable. Fortunately, there are ways to find a resolution in a quick and professional manner.

How to help extinguish conflict

Here are some tips on how to extinguish the flames ignited by conflict in your workplace.

  1. Put out the fire immediately — In order to successfully resolve conflicts, you must address the situation as soon as possible. While it’s tempting to avoid conflict and wait for the situation to blow over, it’s probably only going to get worse in time. Extinguish the flames before the fire spreads to the rest of the office.
  2. Listen — It’s not necessary to pick a side or express your personal opinion on the matter. Just provide your undivided attention and focus on listening. Escalating anger is often slowed down when you lend a sympathetic ear to each party.
  3. Identify the underlying issue — The heat of the argument may be causing the issue to escalate, so try to calm each employee down. Once the air is clear, they will probably feel more comfortable expressing their feelings. If the root of the problem is not easily determined, ask probing questions to help identify what the underlying issue is.
  4. Review the handbook — Once you’ve identified the root of the problem, you’ll need to make a resolution that’s fair. To make sure your resolution is aligned with the company policy, review the employee handbook. Employee handbooks explicitly state how employees are supposed to conduct themselves in the workplace and the consequences for employee who do not follow the guidelines set forth.
  5. Create a resolution — After assessing the situation from an unbiased standpoint, create a resolution that will get the employees back on track. A lingering conflict can affect productivity, so the resolution must refocus the employees from the conflict to the tasks at hand
  6. Follow up — After two weeks or so have gone by, have a follow-up meeting to see where the employees now stand with each other. Hopefully the conflict is resolved, but have a course of action ready just in case nothing has changed and flare-ups still occur. Oftentimes, bringing in a facilitator with an outside perspective can provide further assistance.

This was originally published on the Genesis HR Solutions blog.