Occasional employee conflicts are nearly unavoidable – but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. The truth is that internal conflicts can be quite costly for your company. One study showed that employees spend an average of 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflicts at work. That’s a lot of time that could be better utilized elsewhere. To combat the problem, your leaders need to know how to recognize conflict, how to diffuse the situation, and how to prevent it from happening again.

How to Recognize Employee Conflicts

Oftentimes, team members will directly ask for assistance with conflicts. However, this isn’t always the case. Your leaders may notice that a conflict is arising by paying attention to their employees and how they interact with one another. Advise your leaders to check in with employees regularly, asking how their day is going and inviting them to voice any concerns they may have. This a great way for them to stay connected with team members. If your leaders seem willing to listen, most employees will be relieved to lay the problem out so they can help remove the tension.

How to Diffuse Employee Conflicts

Once it’s clear to the team leader that there is a conflict, it’s time to start repairing the relationship between employees. First, you’ll want them to ask each person for a summary of the situation. This summary should be succinct. Don’t allow this conversation to become a discussion — that may potentially lead to an argument. Once each person has explained his side of things, have your leaders allow time for questions from all parties, including their own questions. It’s important that your leaders gain a good understanding of each person’s viewpoint before attempting to move forward.

From here, you need to train your leaders do two things: (1) underline the core issue, which is usually a difference of opinion, and (2) brainstorm ways to resolve the issue. Before moving forward, they will want to make sure each employee agrees with the decided course of action.

How to Prevent Employee Conflicts From Happening Again

Usually, a good leader can prevent new conflicts by simply involving employees in the resolution process. However, sometimes more drastic action is needed. While your leaders must remain unbiased during conflict resolution, they should also pay attention if one employee is regularly involved in disputes with others. If one person seems to be causing most of the workplace disputes, the manager or supervisor may need to have a one-on-one meeting with that employee to discuss the problem and lay guidelines for future behavior. Rarely, it can be necessary for your leaders to discipline or even dismiss the employee if the problem continues.

Conflict is never pleasant, but it’s something good leaders know how to resolve, and can use to make the team stronger in the long run. If your leaders aren’t skilled in conflict resolution and let the situation continue, it can only grow bigger, possibly spiraling into a confrontation that could have been avoided with preemptive measures.

Chris Craddock

As the leader of Projections' production team, Chris loves to inspire others to perform at the highest levels! From the most challenging leadership opportunities to brainstorming the latest topics leaders want to learn about, Chris provides clear direction and vision.