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Conflict Resolution

When Employees Don't Get Along: What to Do?

Crystal M. O’Brien, Esq asked:

In this time of pressing economic concerns, busy work schedules, and limited resources, the ability to exercise patience in the workplace can be a challenge.  It’s no wonder that conflict often times will erupt for what seems to be ‘no reason’.

As an initial step to managing conflict, we ask that you should stray away from assuming the ‘head in the sand’ approach will make conflict that lasts for more than a few days will simply go away.  In fact, rarely does this approach work where employee relations are concerned.  For this reason, consider the following tips for managing conflict when you find yourself in the role of “mediator”. 

Allow employees involved in apparent conflict to separately vent without fear of being judged. For damage control, separate employees to allow them a “cooling off” period which will likely help them to regain control over their emotions and gain a new perspective. Engage employees to work together to create solutions. Ask what it would take to resolve the conflict and what each employee is willing to contribute.  And then hold each accountable. Share lessons learned with others affected by or involved with the conflict. Consider introducing an outside third-party consultant like MMC to facilitate issues and teach concepts to resolve future conflicts. Would mandatory training for all managers and supervisors in conflict resolution, problem solving, and teamwork improve the level of interpersonal skills guiding your workplace? Appraise and reward not only what is accomplished in terms of performance, but also how goals are reached through conduct. If you would not tolerate such bad behavior from employees, don’t tolerate it from managers? Remember, you get what you give, expect, tolerate, and reward in the workplace. Finally, reinforce cooperation as well as results. Like most relationships, no pain/no gain. Conflict can actually strengthen outcomes, based on how they’re resolved.  So embrace conflict as a natural part of most workplaces, and manage it with confidence.

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