How to Manage Employee Conflicts in a Small Business

by Brad Egeland

When employees are at odds with one another it affects the entire workplace. Here are three steps you can take to resolve conflicts and disagreements among your small business employees.

Employee conflictAny business setting can be a hotbed for conflict. And nowhere is that more prevalent than in the small business arena where small and locally run businesses are struggling and failing every day in the current economic climate. Stress is high, customers have dwindled and are slow to come back, and profits in many cases have fallen off the table. Stressful? Yes. Are people fearing for their jobs? Yes. Will conflict arise? Undoubtedly…it’s usually just a matter of time.

In the small business environment everyone is close. How do you deal with conflict in this environment without causing major problems in your day-to-day business activities? It’s your business, yes. But these are individuals you are close to – have likely known for quite some time – and work in close proximity to on a daily basis. How do you handle conflict in this type of a setting?

I suggest going through the following three step process to deal with workplace conflicts in the small business setting…

#1 – Go directly to the source

First, go directly to the source. That may be another individual in conflict with you or it may be two of your employees in conflict with each other. Whatever the situation – remain impartial. If someone is in conflict with you – hear them out. The issue may have nothing at all to do with work – it could just be stress in their outside life that they’ve brought to work. Or they may have a legitimate case to be in conflict with you – and you must be open to the fact that you could be the one who is in the wrong. And if the conflict is between two of your employees – go to each separately and discuss it with them.

#2 – Bring parties together to discuss

Once you’ve heard each side separately, bring them together for a monitored discussion. The key is to work through the issues – together. You need to get to the root of the issue so that it doesn’t become bigger and threaten the work being done or the cohesiveness of the small workplace environment.



# 3 – Come to a resolution

Finally, you must come to some resolution – even if it just involves more discussion and a shaking of hands. Or in my case it would need to involve pizza. If you can get the parties to shake hands, smile, and put it behind them then the battle has been won and you can move on.

Don’t be afraid to look into the conflict in detail, if necessary. If new policies or procedures need to be put in place to avoid the same conflict arising in the future, have that discussion with your employees. The more you let them have ownership of the situation and the necessary changes that are going to be implemented, the more they will actually comply with those new policies and procedures.

Summary

Conflict can be a good thing. And it can be a very damaging thing if it’s not handled promptly and properly. Never make the mistake of taking your employees’ issues too lightly. Make sure they understand that their concerns are important to you and that you have their best interests in mind as you work to help resolve these workplace conflicts. By doing so, you show them that you’re in charge but you care about them and that they are a vital part of your organization.

© 2011 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at www.bradegeland.com.

 
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