The workplace is no different than any other place where humans come together and communicate. There will be conflicts – this is not a question, but a certainty. If you’re prepared to deal with these workplace conflicts, you can minimize the damage they do and get back on track more easily. Small business owners often have a special relationship with their employees, and if those relationships are eroded, you could lose your star talent. Don’t let ordinary conflict wreak havoc on your workplace!
This is the small business owners’ guide to handling workplace conflict. You’ll learn strategies to deflect, work through, and/or de-escalate conflict in the workplace. You may wish to teach these resolution strategies to your employees, too.
The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Handling Workplace Conflict
The right way to handle workplace conflict depends on the type of conflict in question. Leadership conflicts are handled differently than interpersonal conflicts.
We will talk about the 5 types of workplace conflict and the methods and strategies you can use to work through each. Handling workplace conflict doesn’t have to be difficult.
Information and tips for dealing with leadership conflict:
What is leadership conflict?
Sometimes, a person’s natural or learned style of leadership clashes with the ideals of the employees they manage. This is called a leadership conflict. Leadership styles vary widely, and techniques that work when leading some employees may turn out to be a major problem for others.
How can you quell leadership conflict?
Your core company mission and values should be at the heart of any leadership style being used at your business. While another person in a leadership position at your company may have a more direct style of leadership than you, you both should still have the same mission and end-goals in mind. If that’s not the case, it’s time to revisit your mission and values.
Go over the updated mission and values with everyone in leadership positions to make it clear which behaviors will and will not be tolerated. If micro-managing has been problematic and causing leadership conflict, include employee independence and the freedom to make choices as a core value at your company. Discuss what this means with those in leadership and outline the practices that are NOT conducive to that – i.e., micro-managing, employee mistrust, etc.
Information and tips for dealing with interdependence conflict:
What is interdependence conflict?
Interdependence conflict arises when one person’s job or duties hinge on the completion of another’s. Because of the interdependency of roles or duties, frustration frequently arises when one person’s repeated mistakes or speed throws off others in the workplace.
How can you deal with interdependence conflict?
The driving force of interdependence conflict is a disorganized workplace with unclear roles and lack of accountability. If an employee who sends late reports every month slows down the rest of your workplace, make the process clear (how does their being late affect others in the workplace?) and redefine responsibilities if needed.
Hold your employees accountable for the tasks they are to complete. Programs like Slack are great for keeping the team in communication and help socially influence employees to handle their tasks on time.
Work style differences
Information and tips for dealing with work style differences.
What are work style differences?
Everyone works differently. Some work fast, some slow; Some want to involve the entire department, some want to work alone. Work style differences can easily result in conflict when two or more work styles clash.
How can you handle work style differences?
First, reiterate the normal nature of work style differences. They will occur, and they are not bad in themselves. Problems arise when ineffective conflict ensues over those differences. Hold a quick meeting about the different work styles and ask employees to identify theirs.
When the next conflict arises, have employees remind each other of their work style difference and how it doesn’t mean conflict is necessary. Example: “I just like to work alone, I’ve got an independent work style. I’m sorry if it seemed like I was stand-offish.”
Work culture dissension conflict
Information and tips for dealing with work culture dissension conflict.
What is work culture dissension?
Workplace culture – A set of values, practices, traditions or beliefs a company and its’ employees share
Work culture dissension happens when employees disagree on the workplace cultural values or hold different cultural ideas and beliefs because of different backgrounds and histories.
How can you work through culture dissension conflict?
Be clear about company culture. From our post, How to Build a Strong, Unified Company Culture:
“The most important facet of establishing and building a beneficial company culture is modelling, and we’re not talking about the catwalk. Until the leaders at your company are actively promoting and modelling the values and approach you’ve decided on, your “company culture” is nothing more than an idea or a piece of paper. It has to be demonstrated to employees across the company, and it has to be demonstrated faithfully, every day.
This means you can’t decide that suddenly, yours is a company that likes to hang loose when you hired your employees under the idea that you operate a tight ship. Similarly, you can’t preach values that you don’t demonstrate. Employees notice their higher-up’s actions just as much as they notice their words, so the saying rings true: ‘Practice what you preach.'”
Information and tips for dealing with interpersonal conflict.
What is interpersonal conflict?
Interpersonal conflicts happen between people (inter=between, personal=people). In the workplace, these conflicts can be about anything under the sun, from a fizzled office romance to a disorganized desk or someone stealing a sandwich from the office refrigerator.
How can you manage interpersonal conflict?
This is the toughest type of workplace conflict to manage and mediate. There may be serious hurts and emotional upsets from these types of conflict. As the business owner, you can’t let interpersonal conflict set the stage for the rest of the workplace. You can’t let it get out of hand.
When interpersonal conflict is noticed, take the participants aside and have them communicate, sans insults, the situation. Encourage empathy and look for solutions. Suggest ways the participants can collaborate to find the best solution. The participants must be the ones to eventually resolve the conflict, otherwise resentments will build up and result in more serious conflict later.