Unfortunately, workers regularly get into disputes large and small. It’s a manager’s job to ensure that disputes are addressed quickly, before they can put a dent in productivity or employee morale.
When disputes are handled poorly or not at all, the workplace can quickly become miserable, and even toxic, as dominant personalities have their way with everyone else. Of course, it’s common sense to say that a manager needs to handle conflict effectively, but it’s a much harder thing to do in reality.
Below is a short list of things you can do to effectively manage disputes within your workforce.
Get the Timing Right
One of the big takeaways from the iconic The Art of War text is that success is often about timing. If you want to address a dispute between two or more employees, you need to pick the right time to do it.
The ideal moment to take action on a workplace dispute situation is when there is undeniable evidence that it is adversely affecting team performance. If you act too soon and without evidence, you aren’t giving your employees the chance to grow and handle the situation themselves. You also run the risk of overblowing a minor situation.
If everybody around you thinks the situation must be handled and you are sitting on your hands, you run the risk of losing respect. Because respect is essential to effective leadership, good company leaders confront situations before they lose the respect of their team.
If you wait too long to act, you also run the risk of creating a power vacuum, which will be filled by the more dominant members of your staff.
Meet with All Involved Employees at the Same Time
A typical error is to meet individually with people in a dispute. If you do this, you run the risk of polarizing your team. Each person involved will simply push their point of view on you, making you judge and jury.
Alternatively, meet with everybody and let each person offer their perspective. Then, ask each volunteer to talk about particular actions they’d like to see that could resolve the situation.
Let everyone know you won’t choose sides and you want them to resolve the situation as adults. If they cannot, you must take the necessary actions to support team productivity.
Establish and Respect Boundaries
Conflict can become complex and uncontrollable if you don’t know and respect the boundaries of your staff members. Everybody works differently and everyone has different personal boundaries. To be successful in conflict resolution, you need to deal with these boundaries.
Using regular training and meetings, you can set and reinforce expectations for yourself and your workers. This can establish standards that can even keep conflict from coming up.
Leaders who actively engage their team in this way will find themselves coping with much less conflict.
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