Ready to Rumble

One of the biggest challenges business owners face is handling conflicts that arise in the workplace. There are ways to nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand.

Conflicts in the office arise often and everywhere, so how do you decide the conflicts that are crucial to fix? Management needs to take action when the conflict has spun out of control. This is when the problem is affecting the work of the people involved, as well as the work of uninvolved employees.

The first logical step to find a solution for an office conflict is to identify the kind of conflict you will have to deal with. This must be done before you approach the necessary employees and put together a meeting. To know the topic ensures you will stay in control. It will also be easier to identify the key issue if you are already aware of the topic. A conflict may occur when there is a misunderstanding about facts or a disagreement over how an objective will be attained. One of the hardest conflicts that management may deal with is a difference between two employees’ beliefs or ideals. The last is a conflict that takes place when employees have different views of the goal or mission of a specific task or, even worse, the company as a whole.

Once you have identified the kind of conflict you will be dealing with; take the involved employees to a location where your discussion will not be heard by uninvolved employees. Explain to your employees that the conflict will result in a solution at the end of the discussion and it will not be discussed again. This will dismiss the chance for either employee to spread office gossip, which is the leading cause of office conflict.

Set ground rules; allow each employee involved the same amount of time to express their point of view along with their REALISTIC solution. Do not call the employees in to yell at them for having a conflict, this will cause further distress and more of a headache later. Keep order in the conflict resolution discussion to give you, the management, total control. It is unnecessary for this to turn into a venting session where employees begin to demean one another. Remember, it is the management’s job to make sure all employees feel secure and supported when stating their issue.

After all sides are heard, identify the key factor of the problem. There is always an underlying issue that caused or initiated the conflict. This is more specific than the type of conflict, this is where you make sure every employee involved agrees on what initiated the issue. Once you have identified this, then the solution process can begin.

Determine a realistic solution to the conflict. This could be a compromise between the conflicting employees or a solution that you believe will solve the issue. Pay attention to what the employees had stated as their ideal solution, because a lot of the time you will find a shared goal between them. Describe the shared goal along with the overall goal of the company to make sure they align and compliment one another. Conflicts occur when employees are focused on one aspect of a company, not the broad mission.

When creating a solution, look at all possibilities and outcomes of the action(s). A solution must be worth the employees/company’s time and energy. How is it going to affect the business and its objectives? The solution is meant to solve, not compromise any goals or objectives of the company. The employees involved should be responsible for implementing the solution and the actions necessary to accomplish that solution. Answer the question, what if the solution does not work or is not implemented? Who will be responsible and what is the next step? The solution cannot turn into another conflict so address all angles of the proposed actions to make certain there won’t be any surprises.

Finally, with the solution in mind, identify how the solution will evolve. The employees must know that they are responsible for making sure the conflict does not come up again. Be supportive, do not lecture, they are valued employees who share the same mission of the company. The more you point out the similar goals and ideals, the harder your employees will work toward preventing potential conflicts in the future. —Frances Foley

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