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Employee Experience

How to Effectively Manage Employee Conflicts

One Minute Takeaway

  • Employee conflicts are often viewed as negative, but they can often lead to periods of innovation.
  • The way managers handle conflict in the workplace can make or break employee confidence in leadership teams.
  • Foster healthy conflict to lead teams towards peak performance and positively impact the bottom line.

Anyone who’s been in the workforce for any length of time (even first-timers) understands that conflict and tension between employees in the workplace is pretty unavoidable. When you combine people of different backgrounds, belief systems, and personalities, it’s a guarantee that not everyone will hold hands and sing kumbaya together every day. Employee conflicts can either be incredibly destructive and tear teams apart or they can become productive communication avenues that can instead help teams become stronger.

Take innovation for example. It’s practically impossible to come up with new ideas without having a bit of productive inter-team conflict (key word “productive!). That’s why it’s important to build a workplace culture where employees feel secure in voicing new ideas that may challenge the status quo. That’s the good type of conflict.

Conflict in the workplace becomes destructive when employees don’t trust each other, and they treat the word collaboration as nothing more than a buzzword. Managers and frontline leaders need to spot the differences quickly and easily between toxic and healthy conflict in order to lead their teams towards peak performance.

7 Tips for Building a Conflict Resolution Program

Here are 7 tips to help you create a system to resolve conflict in the workplace.

  1. Name the Problem. You can’t even start to resolve a workplace conflict unless you know exactly what you’re up against. Being keenly in tune with team members’ interpersonal disputes or challenges will help you recognize conflict a when it first starts bubbling up, enabling you to proactively manage the situation.
  2. Determine the Effect. Once you discover that an interpersonal conflict is developing, take stock of how it may affect the individuals involved, the team, and your overall workplace culture. Is the conflict a productive, healthy one that can lead to business growth or is it a toxic one that pits team members against each other?
  3. Identify the Players. Workplace conflict can reveal itself in many ways and at various levels of the business. Typically, the more people involved in the conflict, the more complicated it will be to figure out what’s at stake or to find common ground. Doing your research is critical so that you can understand the full range of involvement and what the potential fallout or benefit could be.
  4. Gauge Everyone’s Perspectives. Once you’ve completed the discovery groundwork, you’re ready to gather everyone involved to work toward a resolution. Directly involve all the players in the conflict and ask about and listen to their feelings. You might learn about previously unknown factors that might pertain to the conflict that weren’t evident at first. This conversation will be key to determining the direction you need to take to resolve the conflict.
  5. Request Feedback. After everyone has met and offered their input, the best course of action is to ask how you can best support each side and ensure their concerns are addressed and a satisfactory (for all parties) solution has been identified. Unless the conflict involves a clear case of company rule breaking, it’s not productive to declare one of the parties right and the other one wrong.
  6. Build Accountability. It’s not enough to simply declare that a workplace conflict exists, say that something needs to be done, and move on. If you don’t outline specific expectations and corrective behaviors, you’ll end up leaving the root of the conflict intact. It’s important to be as detailed as possible when building out a plan. Outline which person or team is accountable for what steps toward resolution, when steps need to be completed (don’t leave anything open-ended), and detail the specific steps you as a leader will take to champion the plan.
  7. Evaluate and Adjust as Needed. For one-off conflicts, steps 1-6 are usually only performed once. Step 7, however, can and should be repeated until the desired results are achieved. What might initially look like a solution that everyone agrees with may not be the best approach. Keep working at it until the problem is solved to everyone’s satisfaction.

Workplace Conflict Resolution Is Essential for Business Growth

All styles of managers, from those who are more intense and authority-driven to those who are more laid-back and casual, should take an active role in conflict resolution. Follow these 7 steps and find the method that feels right to you and then determine the best way to manage it—discuss, resolve, and grow as a result.

As you build a workplace culture that facilitates and accepts an environment where employees feel empowered to voice new, sometimes disruptive ideas that may create the good type of conflict, you may very likely witness increased innovation, as well as a positive impact on your company’s bottom line.

How Paycor Helps

For help with staying up to speed on what’s happening in your work environment and identifying conflict before it becomes a problem, Paycor can help with Pulse Surveys. Frequent confidential surveys improve engagement, enhance trust, and provide leadership teams with access to data that will help tackle problems head-on.