What Managers Can Do When Employees Engage in Conflict

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Apr 1, 2015

Every manager knows that resolving conflict between employees can be daunting.

Many managers simply try their best to avoid the conflict and hope that they will work it out on their own.

They are adults after all, right?

Unfortunately, when left to deal with conflict on their own, employees rarely find common ground that is beneficial to the company. More likely the dispute lingers and effects their performance and sometimes the other employees on their teams.

5 tips to help solve employee conflict

Fortunately, there are ways you can reach out to employees who are struggling with conflict. These tips will help you extinguish the flames early on.

  1.  Focus on listening — It is not necessary to take sides when it comes to putting out small fires. Escalating anger is often slowed down when you lend a sympathetic ear to each party. Avoid inserting your opinions and simply provide your full attention. This is the beginning of an open dialogue.
  2. Welcome feedback — Keep the lines of communication open by making employees feel comfortable bringing issues to you. The less somebody feels the need to bottle up emotions, the less likely this individual is to lash out at fellow employees.
  3. Identify employee needs — The result of a conflict should never be along the lines of determining who is wrong and who is right. Your goal is to identify what needs are unfulfilled. Is one employee picking up slack for the other? Are certain employees simply not compatible with each other? Talk to each employee about potential solutions to determine which needs are most important.
  4. Don’t accept silence — Silence is occasionally a form of acceptance, but it can also be a sign of resistance. Make sure to seek input from members on each side of the conflict to ensure that your proposed solution is geared toward forward motion.
  5. Follow up — Allow some time between the proposed solution and the follow-up meetings. Make sure to have a plan ready just in case nothing has changed and flare-ups still occur. Oftentimes, bringing in a facilitator with an outside perspective can provide assistance.

The key for any manager is to face conflict and disputes head on and not expect them to go away on their own.

It’s not always easy, but dealing with the disputes correctly will make the lives easier for everyone in your organization.

This was originally published on the Genesis HR Solutions blog.

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