Employee conflict may be costing your company more so than you may know. Added tension in the workplace can damage the entire environment and before you know it, all your employees are adversely affected. There are several ways that you can reduce employee negative conflict and ensure that your workplace is not only functioning smoothly, but also positively.
Meeting it Head On
One of the worst things you can do with employee conflict is ignore it and hope it will get better. Generally, this doesn’t happen! In fact, in most situations, the level of conflict will escalate until one or several employees simply cannot take it anymore.
Instead of ignoring it and hoping it will go away on its own, meet the problem straight on. Speak with your employees separately and make sure to make the meeting non-confrontational. Both sides are going to feel entirely justified and you’ll need to be the one to sort out the issue. Encourage both, or all involved, to share their grievances and then see how to best manage the situation.
When there are no consequences, human nature runs wild. Be proactive, create specific consequences for employee conflict and ensure that you are enforcing these consequences equally and fairly. Let everyone in the workplace know that conflict will not be tolerated and that if it does occur, there will be repercussions. This will go a long way towards reducing employee conflict before it even starts as they will know they will be held accountable for their actions and behavior.
If you end up with employees who cannot maintain their professionalism, you will have to enforce your own rules. It may not always be easy, but it is necessary every time. To ensure fairness, create a stair-step system of resolution that lets the punishment fit the crime. This creates a fair warning system for employees.
For example, instead of an outright suspension for a grievous mistake, give them at least one chance to correct their behavior. This is very important when you first institute a conflict system to ensure that everyone is on board and understands what they will be facing if they do get out of line. All conflict after the first time, should be documented in the employees' record in case is should become a pattern of concern as time goes by.
Open Door Policies
One of the best ways to resolve employee conflict is to institute an open-door policy for your employees, at every level of management. If disgruntled employees believe they can go to someone, be heard and then have the problem resolved, conflict will not be as big of an issue or at least you'll be able address it sooner than later. In most instances, employees want to be heard and their concerns validated. Communicating openly can be an effective approach to reducing tension and conflict.
While there are strong chances you will have some employees who believe it’s their duty to whine constantly about every little thing, the vast majority of your employees will appreciate an open-door policy and will not abuse it. The mere fact of having an open-door policy may diffuse situations since employees know that there is recourse and there is someone that they can talk to.
Bonus Step: Leading Means Taking Action
Early action is the best way to acknowledge and repair employee conflict. Once you have established your system, handling conflict as early as possible will not only make it easier, but in most cases, employees will resolve issues on their own, particularly if they know that they may have bigger problems if they let things escalate. Give employees fair and reasonable guidance then hold them accountable and responsible for adhering to such guidance. The concept of incremental gains can be applied to reducing workplace conflict by being proactive over time to allowing employees opportunities to communicate their concerns. Most employees do not suddenly one day want to break the rules, they do over time, when they are not listened to or take seriously. The actions that require conflict often can be precluded with the proactive incremental gains approach!