Workplace conflict is common, yet often times it goes unattended. In fact, 85 percent of employees at all levels experience conflict at work to some degree.
As such, small business owners need to understand every angle of conflict for a more thorough resolution. Doing so will help employees have a happier and better work experience - leading to better retention as well.
Have an open mind
Consult company manual
Give the other person the benefit of the doubt
Catch the conflict early
Do not assume
Do not say anything you will later regret
Be sure the problem is resolved
These general rules will help you frame conflict resolution and will serve as a reminder as we go through the below scenarios. Now, let’s take a look at how these rules are applied to workplace conflict situations.
Scenario 1 - The Rule Bender
Andrew works for a respected engineering firm as an engineer and loves his job. He’s on time to work and puts in his time to make sure he’s seen as a hard-worker. His co-worker Tim is rarely on time, and tries to find loopholes whenever possible in order to do the least amount of work possible. Their company has a policy that if an employee is over 15 minutes late, they must call their supervisor as soon as they sit down at their desk to make sure they know the employee has arrived. One day, Tim comes in 30 minutes late. Out of concern for Tim’s job, Andrew says “Hey Tim, I just wanted to remind you to call our supervisor so you don’t get in trouble.” Tim gets angry and tells Andrew that their supervisor will never know he was late and that it doesn’t matter.
Do - Know what’s going on in your company. As the small business owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re monitoring your employees. In this scenario, if Andrew were to come to you and suggest a re-visit to company policy, you need to realize that it’s probably for a reason. Rather than putting Andrew in a situation where he must tell you about Tim’s tardiness, you can simply thank him for his input and schedule a quick meeting for you staff. If problems continue after the meeting, you must take corrective action.
Don’t - Disregard the situation. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Additionally, make sure you’re sticking to company policy and regularly making it a part of trainings.
Do - Communicate and give the benefit of the doubt. Andrew is probably upset considering he is to work every day on time and Tim is not. Yet Tim appears to be on time simply because he doesn’t report his tardiness. So, how should Andrew handle this type of workplace conflict? First of all, Andrew should speak to Tim and let him know he is concerned for his job and wants to ensure he doesn’t get fired. If Tim does not respond in a positive way, Andrew should remain calm and try to understand why Tim feels he doesn’t need to follow company policy.
Next, Andrew should not assume the reasons Tim is coming in late. He should give him the benefit of the doubt by observing the next few days to see if Tim is late again and not reporting it. If Tim continues to do so, Andrew can go to the supervisor and suggest that the company goes over policy together to ensure everyone is clear on what they should and should not do. The supervisor will handle the problem from there.
Don’t - Be a tattle-tale. It can be tempting for Andrew to immediately go to the supervisor and tell on Tim for his actions, however, this isn’t the correct thing to do. Andrew must realize that there are many reasons why Tim may not be following the rule and should let their supervisor handle the problem. Additionally, Andrew should not act as a supervisor and monitor everything Tim does. If Tim does not fix his mistakes even after being reminded by the supervisor, his situation will be taken care of by the supervisor. It is not Andrew’s responsibility to enforce company policy.