There is nothing unusual about conflict in the workplace. In fact, it would be unusual if yours was perfectly harmonious. Your employees will have disputes with each other and with you, and while you cannot keep it from happening, you can work to resolve the issues as quickly, cleanly and fairly as possible. Here are 3 tips that can help you return harmony to your office.
- Listen, consider and then boil it down.
Listen to each side as they tell their story. You can do that with all parties present or you can take them aside and speak to them individually. The key here is to all them to speak their mind for you to understand each side. Is the matter personal or is it work-related? The answer to this question will determine where you go next, whether you can solve the issue once and for all.
Once that is done, you need to bring them back to reality, taking their attention away from the details so that they can see the bigger picture. Once you have done this, then you can identify the real problem, which is often different from the actual cause of the conflict. Find the motivation for each, as well as the issue that keeps them from reaching a solution.
- Know when to play umpire and when to let them work it out themselves.
Whenever possible, let the warring parties resolve the issue on their own, taking action only when things threaten to get out of hand, or the conflict is affecting their work or disrupting the productivity of others.
- Ignore office politics and personalities
As a leader, you need to resolve the problem without offending or alienating either side. That means no politics, no taking one side over the other. If you do, your credibility—as well as your leadership—is shot. Your goal is to keep everyone focused on solving the problem at hand, rather than being sidetracked by personal or political issues.
You must separate your emotions from the issues at hand when dealing with difficult employees. You cannot dwell on the person’s negative personality traits. Instead, you need to keep your focus on tasks, projects and results. They don’t allow their personal feelings to interfere, and they treat everyone the same way. If you don’t, that is more than a management mistake; it opens you and the company up to legal trouble because these employees are the ones most likely to drag you into court over what they perceive as unfair treatment.
There will always be conflict, though happily not all the time—if there is, then there is something bigger going on than just two people who cannot get along—but knowing how to handle it and being able to bring the parties involved back to productive work will save you a great deal—on a great many levels—in the long run.