Blame it on personality, lifestyle or other factors, but sometimes employees just don’t mesh. And friction in the ranks can make your office feel like a war zone.
The tension can make the workplace uncomfortable for other employees and have a dramatic effect on productivity.
But, conflict between two employees isn’t always a bad thing. It can lead to healthy competition, process improvements, innovation or creativity.
Here are some tips to help you tactfully put out fires between feuding employees.
Step 1. Encourage employees to work it out
To do this successfully, first determine whether the situation is emotionally charged and the severity of the conflict. When you’ve assessed the issue, if appropriate, talk to each employee individually to let them know that you’re aware of the situation. You should also encourage open communication and resolution among employees. Ask them if they feel comfortable going to the other employee and handling it one-on-one.
Understand that many people don’t like confrontation, so they may need guidance or talking points on how to approach the other person. Hold them accountable for their actions and for resolving the issue.
Step 2. Nip it in the bud quickly
Step 3. Listen to both sides
Some experts recommend this be done individually, while others believe you should discuss the problem with both at the same time. But before you do that, be sure to evaluate the degree of hostility between them. This way you can be sure you’re create an environment where you can discuss facts, not emotions.
If you determine that speaking to the employees at the same time is the best course of action, provide each employee uninterrupted time to give their (fact-based) side of the story. Once all employees have had this opportunity, ask each of them to offer ideas on how the situation could be resolved and how all parties could move forward.
As a manager, you need to be as objective as possible. You never, ever want to take sides. This will only fan the flames and make matters worse.
Step 4. Identify the real issue
If you don’t feel comfortable doing this or you don’t think you can be impartial, you may want to consider hiring a third-party mediator to handle the situation.
Step 5. Consult your employee handbook
In order to offer a fair resolution, you’ll need to make sure your decision is aligned with company policy. No employee should be above the laws set forth in the workplace. Letting an employee slide when they’ve clearly gone against the rules will weaken your authority and cause resentment in the ranks.
Step 6. Find a solution
Step 7. Write it up
Step 8. Teach them how to talk
Step 9. Lead by example
By speaking to your employees in an honest and respectful manner, you create an environment that values integrity and communication. When you are open and honest, employees are more likely to do the same.
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