The six steps to handling workplace conflict

Workplace conflict, when left unmanaged, can be a force for destruction.

Considering the negative impacts of conflict on businesses such as increases in staff turnover and absenteeism, it’s critical for employers to consider how to handle conflict effectively.

Minor disagreements or misunderstandings between employees can escalate over time and quickly turn into full-blown conflict. Not only will you be left with feuding employees, but the negative behaviours that can result from this conflict have the potential to affect the whole team.

Here are six steps which briefly outline how employers can intervene and facilitate conflict resolution between staff:

Step 1: Talk to each conflict participant privately to establish the facts and all sides of the story. This will mean asking each individual to explain in detail their version of events and asking further questions to clarify your understanding of the issue/s. Remember to keep an objective but concerned tone – you do not want to seem biased to one or the other.

Step 2: Do your research on each version of events and familiarise yourself with the details. Independently, summarize the issue in a few sentences, what caused it and any possible solutions you may have for the problem.

Step 3: Meet with the conflicted parties together in a private space. Keep a professional and optimistic tone from the very beginning of the meeting and request the same from each person.  Let them know that you are not there to ‘scold’ them but instead want to work out an agreeable solution for all parties involved.

Step 4: Recap the conflict to participants, telling both sides how you understand it. Verify with each person that what you have said is accurate, allowing them the opportunity to add or correct any details. Listen to and acknowledge each person and what they have said.  It is crucial at this stage to remain neutral and objective throughout the discussion so that neither employee feels that they have been unfairly treated.

Step 5: Reach a final solution based on participants’ proposed solutions and ones you’ve come up with as the objective party. This step is all about facilitating the discussion toward mutual agreement and understanding. Ensure the solution is one that both parties feel comfortable with. Be sure to document the decisions made.

Step 6: Log the conflict (both sides of the story) and the resolution into a document. Give a copy to each involved employee and have them sign a master copy to verify the information is correct. Finally, file the document for future reference if the conflict ever arises again.

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