How to Manage Workplace Conflict

Not only can workplace conflict impact on your company culture and employees’ morale and energy, but the discrimination cases against employers who failed to act on complaints about discriminatory language are endless. When it comes to workplace conflict, there is no such excuse as “it’s just a bit of banter”.

There are several things employers and managers should be doing to prevent and manage conflict. One of the first things is to have a strategy to manage conflict and policies as what is deemed acceptable and what isn’t. Your strategy for managing workplace conflict should include:

  • Procedures for handling individuals and groups
  • When it is necessary to intervene and when it isn’t
  • Roles of consultative committees and working groups

Your strategy should also include when it may be necessary to seek outside help and when a dispute should be referred to a higher authority.

Managing Workplace Conflict between Individuals

Employees should be aware of who to talk to if they are having a problem and be assured that their concerns will be considered seriously. For minor issues, the method of resolution of conflict can be kept rather informal. Talking and listening to employees, giving them the space to express their feelings and concerns can help resolve many conflicts.

If the workplace conflict seems more serious or is still ongoing, you can investigate the situation more formally by holding more formal meetings and discussions. If the grievance is made official to a manager you will need to follow your procedures in place for grievance, including issues like bullying, absences and misconduct.

Managing Conflict between Groups

When conflicts involve a group of people you may not have the opportunity to personally talk to each employee, which is why employee representatives can have such a vital role. Many organisations establish representation systems to deal with the causes of potential conflict, such as pay or redundancies. This could take the form of either:

  • Working groups
  • Permanent consultative groups
  • Collective bargaining

To manage workplace conflict between groups, employers need to ensure that all communications between parties is relevant and clear, promote joint decision-making and use workplace conflict resolution procedures when necessary.

In all cases, make sure your managers are trained to handle difficult conversations with other employees and have clear discipline and grievance procedures. If you need some help defining these procedures or need support while going through a tough time managing conflict, we can help! Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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