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5 Tips for Employee Conflict Resolution
As a manager, we provide many things; inspiration, motivation, and even a sounding board for employees. One of the roles that managers often take on is that of a mediator or a peace keeper. Part of a manager’s job is to hire a team that works cohesively together to achieve their goals. When your team works well together it can make your job as a leader easier. When members of your team don’t get along, it can feel like an uphill battle for everyone involved. What is the best way to get sparring employees through a conflict and back on track?
My 5 tips on conflict management and dispute resolution:
The famous saying goes “You are only as strong as your weakest link.” When employees argue it can drag down your whole team’s morale and bring productivity to a halt. To get past conflict quickly, I rely on these five steps:
1: Approach the Situation Head-on
One of the biggest mistakes I see managers make is waiting for a conflict between employees to come to a head before taking action. If the same employees are continually having issues, it should be a warning sign that something larger could be on the horizon. Take the time to address issues as they arise so you can start to work towards a resolution that will get your team back on track.
2: Involve a Neutral Third Party
It is important for you to remain neutral. I recommend bringing in a third party to help. It may not seem necessary in all situations, but having a neutral opinion from the beginning of a conflict can contribute to a quick and unbiased resolution. I usually work with Human Resources as they can provide neutral mediation to help eliminate any feelings of favoritism. HR always takes notes so that you have documentation of what has transpired, if any disciplinary action has been taken, and how you will move forward.
3: Make Sure Both Employees Feel Heard
As a manager, it is easy to let your own personal opinions influence the outcome of a resolution. Siding with one employee over another can show favoritism which is why it is imperative to leave your personal biased at the door. Remember that perception is not always reality and there are two sides to every story. I often use the technique of repeating back what I have been told; “I want to ensure that I have fully understood what you said, which is….” Then I repeat what I heard and ask if that is correct. Respecting each employee’s point of view and truly listening will help you better understand their current situation while also helping to eliminate conflicts in the future.
4: Clearly State Both Employees Next Steps
Make it clear that conflict happens, but that there is a choice each employee can make moving forward about how they decide to address similar situations in the future. Let them know that if conflict continues to happen between the same employees, there will be serious consequences and disciplinary action will be taken if necessary. If you are your own HR department, remember that documentation is key. To ensure all parties are on the same page moving forward, have each employee write down and sign-off on what they will do in order to reduce the conflict moving forward. Make copies for employee files and for the involved parties. Once the dispute has been successfully resolved, close this chapter and turn everyone’s attention back to the common goals and forward movement of the team.
5: Work Relationships Take Time
Just like personal relationships, building trust, respect, and a positive workplace take time and effort. Dispute resolution isn’t just about having a single meeting to resolve an issue, it’s a continued effort toward team building. Schedule continued check-ins with your staff and stay on top of any new conflicts that may be brewing.
Being a leader can mean taking on roles you are not used to or may not be comfortable in. Gaining confidence in your conflict resolution skills can mean the difference between having an all-star team and losing quality employees. Try to find opportunities in the resolution process for professional growth. Remember that tension happens in many work situations and that your team will become stronger once you have successfully worked through it.
The job of a manager can be tough as it requires continuously building new skills. If you need help developing your conflict resolution tools or other management skills I am offering a free 15-minute consultation for my management consulting services. There is no time like the present to build up your toolkit!
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