Employee Conflict: What Every Manager Needs to Know

Managing Workplace Conflict: Employee vs Employee

Workplace conflict: It's inevitable. Personalities clash and views differ; if you've ever managed a staff, it's safe to say you've witnessed this firsthand. Whether an inappropriate comment has been made, scheduling conflicts arise, or perhaps an employee is exhibiting offensive behavior--regardless of what the situation is, there are a number of ways to resolve it gracefully. Below are a few steps to take to properly, and peacefully, handle workplace conflict.

Discover the problem

Most conflict arises out of miscommunication. The first step in resolving any issue is to discover what the source of the problem. Meet with all parties involved in a private room, away from your clients, customers, and uninvolved employees. Set aside a few hours to focus on the situation and be sure to listen to both sides of the argument. Require that each individual explains their point of view in a no-fault manner. For example, “I feel like you were belittling me,” instead of “You always belittle me.” Do not indicate any bias towards either party while gathering the facts of the problem.

Find a solution

You've listened to each side; now is the time to come up with a concrete plan of action to solve the problem. Collectively ask the affected employees to come up with a series of proactive steps that they can take to remedy the problem, as a team. For example, if one employee is bothered when her coworker leaves the break room a mess, the solution could be as simple as issuing a memorandum requesting each employee cleans up after themselves. If the situation is more severe or emotional, however, you may consider asking your human resources manager to help referee and resolve the conflict.

Follow up

We've declared a resolution; now we wait and evaluate. Schedule a follow-up interview between the involved parties after a period of time to gain feedback on how effective the solution has been. If one of your employees isn’t complying or has failed to make a permanent change, you should consider seeking disciplinary action. Depending on how severe the offense is, you might need to issue an ultimatum: cease offensive behavior, effective immediately, or become subject to disciplinary action.

Know when to take action

Harassment: It's a word that makes most every human resources manager cringe, and it's not something to be taken lightly. If one employee is attacking another on the basis of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion, this is a matter of harassment, and it MUST be dealt with. In many cases, this will result in termination of the harassing party. If you believe an employee is engaging in harassing behavior, consult with an employment law specialist as soon as possible to discover the best steps to take.

As a manager, your number one focus should be centered on building a unified team. Once you’ve successfully resolved your workplace conflict, help maintain the peace by working to bring your staff closer together. Host occasional group outings, and perhaps you can shut down the office ever so often to cater lunch and initiate teambuilding exercises. Allow your staff the opportunity to warm up and get to know one another off-the-clock; you'll be surprised to see how much closer it can bring your team together.

Read "Managing Workplace Conflict: Customer vs Employee"