Five Solutions for Addressing Employee Conflict

Two business people talk project strategy at office meeting room.

When you have multiple employees, it means that your office is filled with people with different backgrounds, work ethics, and personalities. While having a diverse, unique team has many pros, it can also mean that you’ll have employees who come into conflict with each other. If you have two employees embroiled in a workplace conflict, these five tips will help you address the problem with confidence and diplomacy.

Act quickly

When you hear about a brewing conflict between your employees, it’s important to quickly address the situation. Even a seemingly simple conflict can quickly spread or draw in others, which means you should aim to solve the issue before it gets worse. In some cases, your first step might be to encourage the feuding employees to solve the problem on their own, with little guidance from you and other higher-ups within your business. Other times, you might need to take more drastic measures, like calling the employees in for a meeting. How you choose to react may depend on the specific situation, but it’s still critical to address the conflict in a timely manner.

Listen to both parties

If the conflict between your employees is severe enough that you feel the need to address it yourself, remember to listen to both sides of the conflict. Before sitting down with the employees, dispel anything you may have already heard about the problem and focus on the listening to just the involved parties. The focus should be the specifics of the problem and how to fix the issue, not the emotions of others involved.

When speaking with the employees, whether separately or together, make sure both parties know that you’re there to listen and find a solution, and that you don’t intend to “take sides” or show favoritism. Create an environment in which everyone feels like their thoughts are being valued and heard, and work toward a solution that appeals to everyone.

If necessary, use mediation

Most disputes in the workplace are appropriate for mediation. Mediation is a confidential process that allows both parties the chance to work with a neutral third party, called a mediator, to reach an agreement. During mediation, both employees can express their grievances and emotions in a safe setting. Then, the mediator helps them both reach a resolution that solves the conflict and satisfies everyone. There are many training programs that can give you mediation training. If a situation between employees seem particularly negative or toxic, or if you have a close relationship to one of the parties where you would not be considered neutral, hiring a professional mediator might be the best solution for fairly settling the conflict.

Consider the best solutions

As someone who cares about your employees, of course you want everyone to be friendly with each other. In some extreme cases, however, you might not be able to force your employees to get along. When this happens, the solution might be reorganizing a team to separate the employees in conflict, or having someone switch offices with another coworker. Solutions like these might not seem as ideal as a tidily-solved conflict, but you should take any necessary steps to solve the conflict, promote productivity, and keep the issue from spreading to other parties. If you get the sense that two employees won’t be able to solve a conflict with a simple handshake or apology, you should consider all steps to settling the dispute, even if it means making some changes.

Write it all down

Once an employee conflict has been dealt with, be sure to document the incident. Having a record of the conflict is important for legal and business reasons, but also gives you something to refer to if the employees have another conflict, or if a similar issue arises between other employees.

When documenting the conflict, include details like who was involved, anyone else who helped you address the conflict, like a supervisor or member of HR, and how the conflict was resolved.

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