When people spend 40 hours a week together, week after week, you will undoubtedly have conflicts. There are thousands of ways employees won’t get along with each other — they have different views on how to work as a team, they feel slighted in a project, or they feel disrespected, for example. Managers should follow these six steps to resolve workplace conflicts before they gets out of hand.
1. Address the Feud ASAP
An employee feud can build up over time and hurt everyone in the office. The tension between the two people can infect the workplace and lower morale, which leads to lower productivity and employee engagement for the entire staff. In addition, it can particularly hurt the two employees who don’t get along, and it could even lead to resignation. The manager’s first job is to address the problem as soon as possible so that all workers know that employee happiness and comfort are important.
2. Define the Issue
Once you address the problem, figure out if it's personal or professional. For personal issues, remind the employees that they need to work out the problem outside of company time. A manager should never feed into personal drama. However, if the workers don’t get along because of something that happened — or is still happening — professionally, it’s now also the manager’s problem to fix to salvage company culture.
3. Decide How to Meet With the Employees
If the issue is professional, set a time to speak with both employees. The level of animosity will help you determine whether you should meet with them separately or together at first. For a feud that is clearly emotionally charged, separate the employees and meet individually. Otherwise, it can be best to act as a mediator in a joint meeting.
Office gossip can fuel the fire, but it’s important for a manager to always stay above the fray and not allow themselves to be biased by the rumors. Instead, listen carefully to what each employee is saying about the feud and understand that they can be feeling it personally and emotionally. Prepare talking points ahead of time, particularly if you are meeting the employees jointly, so that the meeting stays on point and doesn’t devolve into drama. Allow each employee to offer their side of the story without interruption.
5. Ask for Advice
Once each employee has related their side of the story, ask both how they would solve the problem. Have each worker articulate why they are upset and what would make them happy a resolution. See if you can find the common ground and point it out. Set an objective for how the two should move forward in appreciation of this common ground.
6. Involve HR As Necessary
Sometimes employee conflict can veer into issues of harassment or other complicated issues. In these cases, it’s always best to involve human resources early in the process.
When there are workplace conflicts — even if it involves only two employees — everyone in the company suffers. It’s a manager’s job to step in and resolve the conflict quickly and efficiently.
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