Conflict between workers is common in the workplace. When someone behaves in a way that interferes with the actions of another person, conflict arises. Conflict can take the form of verbal arguments where people’s ideas are at odds, sexual harassment, and social or cyber-bullying. Sometimes conflict can be resolved easily between the parties involved, but sometimes a supervisor must step in to manage the conflict and reestablish harmonious relationships among workers.
Act quickly to contain the conflict by interviewing participants in the dispute separately. During the interview, impress upon workers to keep the conflict and solutions to themselves to avoid drawing others into the dispute with harmful gossip.
Limit contact between disputing workers by physically changing their workspace and reassigning duties if their work responsibilities bring them in contact with one another.
Ask questions that are designed to gather the facts of the situation during the interviews with each party involved. Determine if there has been any serious violation of company policy, or of the law as in the case of sexual harassment. If so, report the situation to the appropriate authorities.
Decide on an approach to resolve the conflict. You might confront the individuals or negotiate a compromise. Or, you might work together with the disputing parties to collaborate on a win-win situation that they can live with. In some situations, you may be able to accommodate one or both party’s demands. Sometimes you may determine that it is best not to address the conflict at all, in the hopes that participants will work things out or that the underlying cause will dissipate with time.
Follow up to make sure the solutions put into place are working, and make adjustments if necessary. This approach will show the participants that you are listening to them and that you are a dependable and effective manager, which can make future dealings with your workers easier.
Act quickly to avoid drawing other workers into the conflict. Keep in mind that conflict is not always bad. Sometimes conflict highlights a problem to be solved or brings different points of view to the fore, some of which may be helpful to the firm.
Resist the tendency to prejudge the situation and side with one of the workers until you hear all the facts. Make sure you are not perceived as favoring one person over another.
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