Knowing how to resolve employee-employer conflicts in a mutually respectful, effective, timely manner is an invaluable skill for any supervisor to have. As a leader in the company, the manager is responsible for workflow in his section or department. That includes not only task completion but morale as well. When prevention is not possible, learn how to resolve conflict before it reaches epidemic proportions and cascading effects.
Steps to Evaluate the Situation
Before taking any direct action, evaluate and identify the root causes and effects of the conflicts:
- What are they? By identifying causes, solutions often present themselves.
- When did they first appear? By pinpointing a time when the negative behavior started, you often have a starting point for resolution.
- What precipitated them? Both personal and professional events affect employee conduct. Be aware of as many ongoing factors as you can.
- What actions might you have taken to avoid or minimize them?
- Can you take those actions now? If so, implement them. If not, investigate what you can do.
Outline Corrective Actions
- If you inadvertently contributed to the conflict and could have done to avoid it, admit it. Then take action to fix your mistakes.
- Have a plan for the employee to undertake to correct his errors. Be open to suggestions from the employee. Sometimes he might present a better idea to improve the situation. Never initiate actions without a guide and a goal.
Confer with Employee
- Delineate errant behavior: By outlining exactly what behavior is unacceptable, not even pretense of non-comprehension is possible.
- Solicit feedback from employee: Sometimes the employee will have valid corrective suggestions. Be open to them. It empowers the employee and boosts self-esteem by demonstrating that he has value.
- Reiterate acceptable behavior: Ensure that all involved have a clear understanding of what is expected from that point on. Later recriminations of misunderstanding are neither constructive nor conducive to healthy employee relations and works toward undermining authority.
- Schedule follow-up: By setting a definite timeframe to consult again with clear goals to accomplish, you reinforce the expectation of improvement and set an anchor point for the employee.
Initiate Corrective Action
- Monitor behavior adjustment: Observe the employee’s actions and attitude. Is the employee appearing to take ownership of his part in the conflict? Is the employee acting responsibly following the conference? If so, you made real progress. If not, stem the tide before it builds even greater momentum.
- Check in with employee: Reinforce the idea that the two of you are working together to resolve the conflict. Reinforce that you are still available should he encounter additional problems.
“Conflict Management Strategies and Styles,” 2001. Howard Culbertson; Southern Nazarene University. http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/conflict.htm#avoid
“The New Conflict Management: Strategies for Dealing with Tough Topics and Interpersonal Conflicts,” Harvard University. http://www.pon.harvard.edu/free-reports/the-new-conflict-management-strategies-for-dealing-with-tough-topics-interpersonal-conflicts/
Wright State University; Raj Soin School of Business. “Conflict Management: Style and Strategy,” Scott Williams. http://www.wright.edu/~scott.williams/LeaderLetter/conflict.htm#Conflict Management Strategies