Today’s offices are melting pots. Clashing personalities, contrasting work ethics, and different lifestyles are just a few every day obstacles we all deal with when going to our respective workplaces. Conflict is bound to arise at one point or another, and as a manager, one of your responsibilities is to ensure that the peace is kept among employees through conflict resolution. The difference between a functional work environment versus a dysfunctional one is how we handle these dilemmas. It’s like American psychologist Kenneth Kaye once said, “If we manage conflict constructively, we harness its energy for creativity and development.” Here are three things to help guide you through conflict resolution in the workplace:
Stop the problem before it starts
As a manager / supervisor, ground rules have to be set in more ways than one. When onboarding a new employee, for example, certain behavioral standards of the workplace should be discussed verbally. Letting your employee(s) know of specific boundaries and expectations allows them to go in with a certain restraint from what is and isn’t allowed in the workplace. To reiterate and reinforce these guidelines, they should be detailed and highlighted in an employee handbook, a mandatory read for all professionals at the organization. That way if a conflict arises, using the physical handbook as a reference point will help avoid a situation where an employee might use the excuse that they simply didn’t know.
If a conflict does occur, you do not want to let it stew or escalate into a bigger dilemma. First thing’s first (and depending on the gravity of the circumstances), use your judgment to see if this conflict can be settled amongst the two parties. This allows both sides to build camaraderie through their differences as well as shows you trust your team to resolve their issues.
If the problem is more contentious, however, it is up to you to address it head-on. Before trying to mediate a solution between both sides, talk to each party involved individually. Choose an appropriate time / place to chat to avoid singling anyone out and making a scene in front of the other party or coworkers who might not be involved. Be an active listener, try and resonate with each one, and make sure to not place the blame a specific side for the issue.
Once all the information is gathered, an intercession meeting should be arranged. Discuss the problem from an objective point of a view and the steps needed to put it to rest. A compromise should be put into place as well as methods to avoid the conflict from bubbling up again. The goal is to make sure both sides feel that they can move forward without jeopardizing the integrity of their own work or the team.
Move on, but stay vigilant
Once both sides have come to a resolution, try and let it fade into darkness. However, make sure to refer back to how this conflict was resolved for any possible predicaments. Have an open dialogue with current and future employees about these type of situations (nameless and not exact obviously) and train accordingly to sidestep any of these predicaments from coming up again. Use each one as a learning experience and lead by example. The goal is try to keep the workplace as harmonious as possible