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7 Pieces of Advice for New Business Owners On Handling Employee Conflict



7 Pieces of Advice for New Business Owners On Handling Employee Conflict

Navigating employee conflict can be a daunting task for new business owners, so we've gathered insights from seasoned professionals including Attorneys and CEOs. From fostering open communication and respect to identifying and addressing recurring conflicts, here are seven key strategies to effectively handle workplace disputes.

  • Foster Open Communication and Respect

  • Cultivate a Safe Speaking Environment

  • Introduce Peer-Mediation Programs

  • Promote a Conflict-Competent Culture

  • Encourage Fact-Based Resolutions

  • Prioritize Empathy and Discussions

  • Identify and Address Recurring Conflicts


Foster Open Communication and Respect

One key piece of advice I would give to new business owners about handling employee conflict is to address conflicts early and openly. Conflict among employees is a natural occurrence in any workplace. Ignoring or allowing conflicts to fester can lead to decreased morale, reduced productivity, and a toxic work environment. Addressing conflicts early and openly can prevent these negative outcomes and promote a healthy, collaborative atmosphere.


Create an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns and grievances. Open communication channels can help conflicts surface before they escalate. When conflicts arise, listen actively to all parties involved. Give them an opportunity to share their perspectives, feelings, and concerns. Emphasize the need to address the specific issue at hand rather than attacking personalities. Keep the conversation centered on the problem and possible solutions.


Ensure that all employees understand the company's code of conduct, policies, and values. Having clear guidelines in place can prevent conflicts and provide a framework for addressing them. Keep records of discussions and resolutions related to conflicts. This documentation can be valuable for future reference and for tracking patterns of behavior.


After addressing the conflict, follow up with involved parties to ensure that the resolution is effective and that the work relationship is improving. Consider providing conflict resolution training for employees and managers. This can equip them with the skills needed to handle conflicts effectively.


As a business owner, model open communication, respect, and professionalism in your interactions. Your behavior sets the tone for how conflicts are handled within the organization.



Cultivate a Safe Speaking Environment

A piece of advice I'd share with new business owners handling employee conflict is to focus on building a culture where everyone feels safe to speak their mind. Think of it as creating a space where your team members are comfortable sharing their true thoughts and concerns without fearing negative consequences. This isn't just about being nice—it's about being a leader who shows their human side too, by showing your own vulnerabilities, genuinely listening to what others have to say, and valuing different viewpoints.


When you work on making your workplace feel safe like this, you'll likely notice that people bring up small issues before they turn into big problems. They'll trust that you'll handle their concerns fairly and respectfully. This approach doesn't just smooth out conflicts; it also sparks creativity and cooperation, making your team stronger and more dynamic. It's about setting the stage for open dialogue and showing that in your business, everyone's voice truly matters.


Matthew Channell, Commercial Director, TSW Training


Introduce Peer-Mediation Programs

Implement a peer-mediation program. Sometimes, employees feel more comfortable discussing their issues with a fellow colleague rather than a superior. 


By training selected employees in basic mediation techniques, you create an internal support network that can de-escalate situations before they require formal intervention. This method not only helps in resolving conflicts but also fosters a supportive company culture where employees take responsibility for their work environment. 


Additionally, this approach helps in building interpersonal relationships among employees, enhancing team cohesion, and reducing the overall potential for conflicts. It allows for a more organic resolution process, where issues can be handled in a familiar, less formal setting, thus promoting a more immediate and empathetic understanding among team members.


Alari Aho, CEO and Founder, Toggl Inc


Promote a Conflict-Competent Culture

Create a conflict-competent culture. Make conflict healthy. Set up conflict as a good thing. Help your people see that differing viewpoints actually work to foster better outcomes, and if handled right (respectfully, and with a focus on people's interests rather than positions), it can also build stronger relationships. 


How we resolve conflict has many levels. The 'lowest' (owning my judgment about it) is competition. It's not always bad—sometimes letting two competing hypotheses or theories run tests or samples to see which scores better is actually a good idea. 


But competition is hard on relationships. Next is compromise, where everyone wins/loses some. That's dissatisfying for everyone. And while compromise may be good for settling lawsuits to save the cost of litigation, they rarely yield positive outcomes. They give you finality, if that is your goal. 


Better is collaboration, aiming for a win-win outcome where everyone is happier, but more importantly, this is the only place in conflict where 1 + 1 = 3. By putting people's ideas together and understanding what about the thing they're fighting over is so important to them, you can get to their underlying interests, where they often don't actually have a conflict. 


Have interest-based discussions, bring in a mediator/facilitator/consultant who's a pro at this, and find ways to grow by going through conflict. Only organizations that don't create a positive feeling around conflict fight, compete, manipulate, and back-stab, all because they just don't know how to do it right. So, some training and creating a positive culture around it will really help shape how your company sits in conflict and manages it.



Encourage Fact-Based Resolutions

My advice to new business owners would be to encourage open communication and active listening. I truly believe it's important to create a safe and respectful environment where employees can share their concerns without fear of retaliation. 


Not to mention, it is crucial to gather all the facts before coming to any conclusions and avoid making assumptions or taking sides without understanding the full picture.


Tom Molnar, Operations Manager, Fit Design


Prioritize Empathy and Discussions

As a business owner who has managed a household staffing company, I know how important it is to address employee conflict quickly and effectively. To new business owners who are facing these challenges, I would advise them to put communication and empathy first.


Employee conflict can be caused by a variety of factors, including personality differences, misunderstandings, or different work styles. It is important not to ignore or dismiss such issues, but to instead approach them with an active and compassionate attitude.


Encourage your employees to communicate openly within the team. Create a space where they can voice their grievances and concerns. Listen to both sides without taking sides. Here, empathy is key; it's important to try and understand all perspectives and emotions.


After you've gained a full understanding of the conflict at hand, try to find a solution that is mutually beneficial. A simple acknowledgment of the viewpoints of both parties can be a powerful tool in reducing tension. Sometimes, conflict resolution or mediation techniques are necessary.


It is important to remember that addressing employee conflicts promptly will prevent them from escalating and negatively impacting the productivity and morale of your business. You can successfully navigate employee conflict by fostering a work culture that values respect, communication, and empathy.



Identify and Address Recurring Conflicts

Identifying recurring conflict situations is key. By recognizing patterns, you can address underlying issues before they escalate. This approach not only resolves the immediate dispute but also prevents future conflicts. 


Implementing regular feedback sessions, where employees feel safe to express their concerns, can be instrumental in this process. Cultivating a culture of open communication helps in building trust and transparency. 


Encouraging team-building activities strengthens relationships, making it easier for employees to resolve differences amicably. Being proactive rather than reactive in handling conflicts fosters a healthier work environment.



1 Comment


Aliya
Aliya
Jun 25

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