The most successful startup founders, small business owners, managers, and leaders hire a diverse group of employees who bring their set of strengths to the business. The problem, though, is that they also come with various weaknesses and personality traits that may not always gel with other team members. In fact, research has found that “that 60-80% of all difficulties in organizations stem from strained relationships between employees, not from deficits in individual employee’s skill or motivation.”
If you’re in that situation, and chances are that you are, here’s a 6 step program to resolve those pesky workplace conflicts.
1. Prevent Conflicts From Happening in the First Place
If you want to avoid any conflicts from happening in your workplace, you have to address any issues before they happen. In other words, you have to let all of your employees know what will be tolerated and what will not, as well as the guidelines to handle any conflicts. Establish clearly defined roles to prevent miscommunication, what tasks are expected of team members, and a chain of command to address any concerns.
Additionally, your managers should be trained as mediators so that they have the tools and knowledge to address these situations. Besides being trained as mediators, they should also be educated in gender bias, such as the stereotype of women being more argumentative than men.
2. Tackle the Problem Head-On
Even though you’ve done your best to prevent workplace conflicts. there will still be instances when a conflict arises. When this occurs, you have to address the source of the conflict as soon as possible. However, it’s probably in the interest of all parties involved to wait until everyone has calmed down.
Keep in mind that there isn’t a company I’ve worked for that hasn’t had problems. Even my current payments startup with only a few people has had problems. I’ve learned to listen to both sides of the story separately and gather all the appropriate information needed to make a decision. You’re not picking sides. You just need the facts so that you can get to the root of the problem. The American Management Association suggests that you ask questions like: “When did you feel upset?;” “Do you see a relationship between that and this incident?;” and “How did this incident begin?”
This will help you move on to the next step.
3. Go Beyond the Source of the Problem
Once you have the facts straight, you can look beyond the source and get to what really caused the conflict. Chances are that there’s a deeper problem than just Joe eating Tim’s lunch the other day. Or Sally talking too loudly on the phone which disrupted Steve during Wednesday afternoon. There’s probably been an issue festering between the two parties for sometime and that needs to be addressed so that both parties can find a resolution and co-exist in the office.
4. Discuss the Impact of the Conflict
After you’ve addressed the source of the problem, and the real issue at hand, leadership author Susan Steinbrecher recommends that you tell both parties how the conflict effects you, projects, and the overall workplace.
As Steinbrecher, states in The Huffington Post, you should tell both parties; “I am not sure you are aware of the full impact of the conflict between you and your team. The other associates are witnessing this, and it is making them uncomfortable… what do you feel is going on?”
When both parties aware of the consequences that their conflict has on the company, they’ll realize what it’s important for a resolution.
5. Both Parties Need to Agree on a Resolution
After getting to the real cause of the conflict and letting the employees know how it impacts the business, it’s time to bring them together and find common ground. Asking each employee the question “What do you think you need to do to help solve this situation?” puts the ball in their court and makes them accountable going forward.
If both parties still can’t agree on a solution, it’s up to you to come up with a compromise. You need to first find common ground that both parties can stand-on and then encourage a compromise that both parties are satisfied with. Remember, don’t let either party walk away without shaking hands. You want to make sure that everyone is content and on the same page.
6. Use Conflict to Your Advantage
Mike Myatt, author of “Hacking Leadership” and “Leadership Matters,” informs Forbes, “Hidden within virtually every conflict is the potential for a tremendous teaching/learning opportunity.” Myatt adds, “If you’re a CEO who doesn’t leverage conflict for team building and leadership development purposes you’re missing a great opportunity.” For example, conflicts can be used to not only guide you during future scenarios like this, but can spark innovation and learning.