As a human resources professional, working with people is likely one of your passions. However, not every moment is going to be a fun one. At times, employees may disagree and argue. While oftentimes they may be able to come to an agreement on their own, other times they may need a bit of assistance. Understanding how to effectively handle employee conflict can help you turn a bad situation into a positive one (or at the very least, a tolerable one).
1. Understand the conflict
Before you can take action on the situation, you must understand it as best you can from an outside perspective. As per usual, the best course of action is to communicate with your employees.
Conduct private one on one meetings with everyone involved. At the start of the conversation, reassure your employees that the details of the conversation will be confidential and that this event is merely a conversation to gather facts rather than to dole out judgment.
Keep an unbiased stance. It is important to keep in mind that during these conversations, you are not interrogating either employee. Ask questions that are seeking facts, rather than opinions or feelings. While you do not want to diminish how the situation made the employee feel, it is more important that you understand what occurred and caused those feelings.
Be a good listener. Ensuring your employees feel heard is crucial to employee relations in any situation. However, it is especially important when you are in the middle of an employee dispute. Listen to understand.
Consider what the underlying issue is. Everything is not always as it seems. A surface-level disagreement may have a more pressing issue behind it. For instance, if two employees are feuding because certain tasks keep falling between the cracks, it may appear as a communication issue.
However, if you look closer, it may actually be from a lack of understanding of job responsibilities from both parties. Problems are not truly solved until the root of the issue has been discovered.
2. Determine your involvement in the situation
After gathering information and identifying the true problem, the severity of the situation should become more clear. Then, you are able to determine how much of a part you should play in resolving the issue. It is likely to go in one of two ways:
Allow the employees to resolve the issue themselves. If you were able to determine the root of the problem (or if the issue was minor), the employees should be able to resolve the problem on their own. Sometimes, discussing the issue with an uninvolved party is enough to bring clarity and understanding to a situation.
In an ideal world, employees are able to resolve the issue on their own. However, if the situation is severe enough, you may want to play a part in its resolution.
Act as an arbitrator. If you need to take a more active role in finding a resolution, you want to continue to remain unbiased. This role can take on a variety of functions. You may act as an unbiased third party in a conversation between those feuding to progress the conversation. It may also mean that you need to have another private conversation with each individual to discuss the matter if that will be the more constructive route to take. How you choose to act in this role is determined by each individual situation.
3. Come to a conclusion (or at least a compromise)
As you have more than likely learned by now, you cannot please everyone. If possible, walking away with a conclusion that makes both parties happy is preferred. If the situation itself was only minor, this should not be too difficult to accomplish. However, you also do not want to form a solution that is not long-lasting.
Each scenario is going to require a different solution. Whether the solution is to have the members work on different teams or it requires a more definitive list of duties, there are few issues that are unsolvable in the workplace. The goal should be for both parties to walk away happy, but a solution that works is better than no solution at all.
Employee conflict can hinder employee satisfaction, so you may want to keep in mind some of these tips. For more helpful articles, continue to check in regularly with BrandResumes’ HR Corner.