Conflict impacts a company’s bottom line. Employee disagreements may disrupt operations, reduce productivity, and demoralize employees.
Unresolved workplace conflict costs $359 billion annually, according to one research. Therefore, they impact your brand. In a negative way. In fact, this is true whether they are kept in-house or are leaked to the media.
Business leadership and human resource management are critical for preventing this. Their duties include enforcing the company’s conflict resolution policies and mediating workplace conflicts as required.
Are you a leader in your company? Do you want to be a leader? Your responsibility will include putting out fires and averting employee strife. According to an American Management Association research, managers spend 24% of their time managing conflicts. It’s not simple, but with the correct tools and knowledge, you can do it.
Here are suggestions for negotiating and resolving workplace disputes.
1. Create a conflict open-door policy.
To avoid conflict, managers should foster an open dialogue where employees feel free to voice their concerns. Implementing an open-door policy can help.
This policy should encourage staff to speak up about important issues without fear of repercussions. It requires active listening, questioning, and cooperation. As a result, employees will be more willing to speak up if they have a problem, preventing confrontations from growing.
2. Assess the severity of the conflict.
Most importantly, understanding the nature and fundamental cause of workplace conflict is critical to resolving it.
Is it due to miscommunication, misunderstandings, incompatible personalities, or employee rivalry? And, if so, is it a significant case of harassment or discrimination?
If it’s the latter, your organization should already have policies and processes in place to address it. If not, that deficiency must be addressed ASAP.
3. Workplace conflict is natural and can occur for many reasons.
It’s critical to identify the core cause and severity of the issue. Only then can you decide how to effectively handle it and prevent it from recurring.
Promote self-resolution by employees. There are times when it is appropriate to let staff work out disputes on their own. You don’t want to feel like you’re micromanaging every office feud. Allowing employees to settle conflicts can benefit all parties.
Remember to monitor and judge when you witness employees having amicable arguments or light political banter. Employees can use these moments to discover common ground or have positive dialogues if they don’t escalate. Getting involved too early might spark escalation since employees may have dismissed the issue.
However, if you believe the disagreement may worsen or cause anyone distress, it’s time to intervene.
4. Act when the situation requires.
Workplace conflicts may (and should) be resolved amongst employees. However, it’s your responsibility to watch and determine whether to intervene. So how do you know when to intervene?
Situations where intervention is required include:
- when benign teasing turns to abuse;
- where explicit, menacing, or abusive language is heard;
- when accusations of discrimination or harassment are leveled;
- when disagreement impacts team productivity or morale; and
- whenever teasing turns rude or disrespectful.
Of course, you should always investigate any employee concerns. Above all, make sure your staff feels seen and heard.
5. Hear out all parties.
It’s critical to allow all parties to the conflict to speak freely. Aim to be unbiased and attentive to each person’s story.
The idea is for workers to actually listen to one another so they can better grasp the other perspective. When employees feel noticed and heard, they are more likely to reach a peaceful conclusion. To sum up, when resolving a problem, you must keep other employees informed.
6. Record the event.
Keep records of all talks, disciplinary meetings, etc., while dealing with workplace problems.
Include the circumstances of any employee-related incident and the settlement reached by both parties. This practice allows you to track employee behavior and detect toxic personnel. Moreover, recording occurrences is also necessary in case an employee sues you.
7. Consult the employee handbook.
Even though it seems obvious, your employee handbook should be your first port of call for office disputes.
This manual should assist you in negotiating conflicts and, if necessary, disciplinary actions. That is to say, your employee handbook should clearly define inappropriate workplace behavior. Above all, the guidelines should be clear and concise, leaving no opportunity for interpretation.
As a leader, you must ensure that all workers are aware of corporate regulations. They must understand that they are held to the same standards as everyone else on the team. Above all, employees should be informed that non-compliance will result in disciplinary action.
8. Construct a comprehensive plan.
Your responsibility as a leader is to assist employees in identifying their demands and finding a mutually acceptable solution. Of course, disputes should be addressed promptly, but don’t rush to find a solution. When workplace disagreement emerges, consider these steps:
- Recognize the rift. Encourage open dialogue among the disputing staff. Have both sides articulate their concerns and interests.
- Unify. After discussing their concerns, employees often find they’re working toward the same objective. They merely disagree on how to achieve it. Knowing their shared goal makes finding a solution much more effortless.
- Invent solutions. Collect different solutions to the problem and discuss them positively. Remember, no idea is a terrible idea. Above all, look for win-win situations where both sides can agree.
- Agree on a strategy. After outlining alternative ideas, let the employees decide how to proceed. If they can’t, help them find a compromise.
After resolving the issue, follow up with the personnel involved to ensure no new concerns arise. If revisions or adjustments are required, these should be done swiftly. What good is your brand if infighting and backbiting destroy your infrastructure?
It’s best if workplace conflicts stay between management and employees. Low key and between two parties.
However, there are times when human resources should intervene. For example, the following scenarios might require human resources:
- Employees are threatening to leave.
- Infighting lowers morale.
- Personal or rude disagreements continue unabated.
- Disputes disrupt work and undermine the company’s success.
10. Above all, ask for help when you need it.
Potential legal concerns can mean trouble. Outside aid might be required. Consider going through a mediator, arbitrator, or an attorney. Use one of them in the following situations:
- Harassment or discrimination claims.
- Arguments turn violent.
- Conflicts are becoming habitual.
- Multiple employees create a poisonous workplace.
If HR lacks the resources to help resolve conflicts, you may need to engage the services of an outside expert.
Resolving workplace conflicts is one of the most difficult tasks a manager or HR professional has. You can help your organization achieve long-term success by resolving disagreements properly.