When a large group of employees work with each other every day, it’s only a matter of time before a conflict arises. That’s just human nature.
Sometimes those conflicts can be relatively minor. An account manager, for example, might be waiting for a sales rep to submit information about a new client even though the deadline was two days ago.
Other times, conflicts can be major crises. Imagine two coworkers tackling a project together and due to frustration and the inability to see eye-to-eye on the next steps, a shouting match ensues.
When conflicts arise, who’s supposed to step in to mediate? That depends.
A general rule of thumb might be that managers should step in when problems are work related and HR should step in when problems are of a more serious nature. Managers, after all, may not be as well versed on legal and regulatory statutes as HR professionals are.
In any case, when a work-related conflict arises and employees can’t settle it amongst themselves, managers should:
01. Confront the problem immediately
Pretending a conflict doesn’t exist isn’t going to make it go away. When a conflict materializes, it’s better to confront it headfirst than to let it potentially grow into something bigger.
02. Speak to involved parties at the same time
Don’t hold separate meetings to hear the story from both parties. Instead, schedule a meeting in your office or someplace similarly quiet with all employees involved in the conflict. Be transparent so no one accuses you of playing favorites.
03. Ask whether they have potential solutions
Your employees may have a good idea as to how to resolve the conflict. As a manager, it’s your job to get that out of them. In the above example, the employee who hasn’t submitted the information about the new client may say they have too many other responsibilities on their plate. If only one of them was removed, they’d be able to submit the information on time without a problem.
04. Agree on a solution
Once you’ve heard both sides of the story and hopefully gotten some ideas as to potential resolutions, work with all involved parties to come up with a remedy to the situation. Hopefully, you’ll be able to come up with a solution that is at least somewhat agreeable to each employee.
05. Put that solution in writing
In order to ensure that everyone’s on the same page, send out a quick email to the involved employees after your meeting. That way, there won’t be any excuses if someone’s behavior doesn’t change right away to reflect the substance of your conversation.
While managers shouldn’t hesitate to get involved with work-related conflicts, they should avoid mediating some of the larger problems that may pop up. If, for example, an employee feels as though a coworker is behaving inappropriately and making them feel uncomfortable and unsafe at work, it’s probably a problem HR is better positioned to handle.
Throw a group of workers into the same office every day, and it’s only a matter of time before some of them will have problems with others. When conflicts materialize, take quick steps to remedy them. Otherwise, you risk ruining the morale of the rest of the team, causing productivity to grind to a halt.
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