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How to handle Employee Conflict

Conflict is inevitable. Unfortunately managers and employees, alike, would rather steer clear of conflict all together then face it head on. There will come a time, however, when the tension overrides common sense and intervention is necessary to get the team back on track. So what is the best way to avoid conflict? Sometimes it needs to be met head on.

1 – Call a meeting with all those involved in the conflict. This can be handled two ways, either in your office or any other neutral meeting place depending on the level of the conflict. The meeting should take place in your office if an atmosphere of authority is needed. If a casual, unbiased atmosphere would work better, use an empty conference room.

2 – No punches below the belt, or low blows. Lay the ground rules. The participants should focus on behavior, not attitudes. There should be no name-calling, no yelling, everyone needs to remain professional. Set the understanding there may not be a winner, but at a compromise may be required.

3 – Give each individual the opportunity to share their side of the story. Each employee must be allowed to state their case without interruptions. At this point, you may need to refer back to point #2 – and refer to it often. If a participant becomes too long winded, you may need to intervene if you find the same facts are repeated without a logical ending.

Don’t let the employees run on unnecessarily. Find out what started the conflict and what has transpired since the conflict began.

Depending on the situation you may need to determine if there are witnesses to any of the incidents in question. If this is the case and the problem requires investigative work or additional research, call a truce and let the participants know you will investigate further. Give a specific day and time for reconvening the meeting to discuss the results of the investigation.

4 – If the situation can be resolved without further information from outside sources, brainstorm on possible solutions to the situation. Remember the rules of brainstorming – there are no right or work solutions and every statement is written down for possible consideration.

5 – Get a verbal or written agreement to make the changes necessary to return peace to the team. All participants must agree to the agreement. Set the rules as well as consequences if either participant does not follow by the agreed upon solution.

So, why handle conflict? Simply put? Morale and performance, not too mention stress.

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