4 Steps for Managing Employee Conflict

No one wants to step in to fix an employee conflict but managers are liable for doing whatever to help the workplace be productive...



Employee conflict is an inevitable part of managing employees, but that doesn't make it any easier for a manager. With a little bit of homework beforehand (seek input from others, gather facts, and take notes to provide specific examples), you'll make the process easier. Then you can take the following four steps to start working towards a resolution:

Step 1: Ask if you can give feedback about the employee conflict or the employee's behavior

Here's the situation: you've been receiving complaints about a worker named Jim and your homework has determined that, yes, you need to have a sit down. You've scheduled a quiet, private space for the meeting and ensured there won't be any interruptions. Now it's time to talk.

Start the process by asking Jim in advance for permission to discuss the matter with him. This shows respect and allows him an opportunity to prepare himself for the conversation. However, don’t drag it out by giving too much notice. Best practices suggest you have the conversation within an hour of asking this question.

Don’t say: “You’ve got a problem.” Or “Pay attention.”

Do say: “Jim, may I give you some feedback?” or “Can I share something with you?”

Step 2: Describe the specific employee behavior that needs to be addressed

Focus on the problematic behavior, being as specific as possible, and not about Jim himself.

Don’t say: “I feel like you keep ticking people off.” Or “I’ve noticed people have been avoiding you.”

Do say: “Jim, several coworkers have told me that you’ve been difficult to work with, from interruptions to borderline inappropriate jokes. I heard about yesterday’s brainstorming session that ended early after you made fun of one of our long-term clients, a company owned by your coworker’s wife.”

Step 3: Explain the impact of the person’s behavior or the employee conflict on other workers

Describe consequences (positive or negative) that have or may result from Jim’s behavior. Focus on the consequence that is most impactful to Jim.

Don’t say: "How come you can’t be more professional?"

Do say: “Here’s what happens with this kind of behavior at work. It spreads like wildfire and damages your reputation with coworkers and other team members who are expected to work with you in the future, not to mention hurts our relationship with clients.”

Step 4: Provide the “next steps” to change the behavior and resolve the workplace conflict

This step is the most critical. Determine what you would like Jim to do differently and allow the solution to come from him, not you. After Jim proposes ideas, try to end on a positive note, building on his ability to rectify his behavior and commitment to reaching his goals.

Don’t say: “You need to be more attentive, less disruptive, and control your mouth.”

Do say: “What ideas do you have for preventing these situations from happening again?”

Effective manager and employee training can develop your team with important skillsets and enhance their overall loyalty to your organization. To schedule an employee training, please contact your Stratus.hr HR Consultant or book a consultation.

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