Despite your best efforts to encourage collaboration, group-mind thinking and unity at your small business, you may never have a workplace where absolutely everybody gets along 100 percent of the time. And that's okay. As it turns out, a certain level of conflict is good for an organization, because it can encourage new thinking, build relationships, lead to breakthroughs and ultimately move your company forward.
If not properly managed, however, conflicts can turn ugly, resulting in more than just hurt feelings. Workplace conflict can hurt productivity, drag down morale and even affect employees’ health. Your employees don’t have to be best friends, but they should respect each other’s opinions - no matter how different they may be - and maintain professionalism when conflict does occur. Here are some ways to help employees who don’t get along create a manageable working relationship.
Encourage employees to work it out themselves. You are, after all, their boss - not their parent. Your employees are adults and, while they may not always appear so, perfectly capable of resolving whatever is wrong themselves. If an employee comes to you complaining about another employee, encourage him or her to work it out between the two of them; however, at times, you may need to act as mediator.
Identify the problem. While it can be easy to see when employees are fighting, it’s not always easy to see why. There could be a number of underlying reasons your employees aren’t getting along - ranging from jealousy to clashing work styles to feelings that one employee isn’t pulling his/her weight. Getting to the heart of the matter is key to resolving the matter and avoiding future conflict.
Listen to both sides. It’s important to hear both sides before you can identify the problem. Give each person involved a chance to explain their side of the story, as specifically as possible. Remember to remain as objective as possible and avoid taking sides. Hearing both sides will help you get the full story, which will help you get to the real problem.
Work on a resolution - together. Once each employee has had a chance to talk, ask them to offer up ideas for resolving the situation and come up with a plan together to move forward. Involving your employees in this step is key. Not only will it help you come up with a plan that suits both sides, it shows you trust them and value their input.
Plan ahead. Take the necessary steps to avoid (or quickly diffuse) conflict in the future. If you don’t already have an employee handbook, make sure you create one that includes specific guidelines regarding appropriate conduct and conflict resolution. Create a culture of healthy conflict, where employees feel free to voice their ideas and opinions without judgment. Encourage employees to speak directly with one another when conflicts arise, and let them know that disrespect will not be tolerated. Finally, consider classes or workshops where employees can learn conflict and management resolution skills.
Remember, not all workplace conflict is bad, and even when it is, it’s how you resolve it that determines your small business’s success.