These Three Damaging Conflict Management Strategies Just Don’t Work


These Three Damaging Conflict Management Strategies Just Don’t Work

After being in business for a while, we know what we’re good at, and we know what we’re not good at. My speciality is managing workplace conflict well. In 95% of my mediations, employees leave agreeing how they will work together again. I have built my Small Business around my skill set and what I love doing. I expect you have done the same.

I’ve been called into workplaces and heard very sad stories about how employees are treated. This is as a result of their employer not knowing how to manage conflict well. As the owner of a Small Business, how well are you managing workplace conflict?

Here I present to you, strategies that do not work followed by tips on what does. Next time you hear of conflict in your workplace, make sure you’re not using one of these useless and damaging strategies.

Useless strategy No. 1. – It’s not my conflict so I shouldn’t ‘butt’ in.

If one of your employees was delivering poor customer service, would you address it as soon as possible? I expect you would answer, “Yes”.

Why would you do that? Why do you consider poor customer service important enough to address with your employee? Is it because you want to protect the reputation of your business? And to keep customers returning?

Workplace conflict is exactly the same.

“If workplace conflict isn’t managed, the reputation of your business can be damaged.”

Even though it’s not your conflict, workplace conflict can impact your business and your profit. It’s important you approach each employee involved directly to let them know you have heard about the conflict. Ask if they need your (or someone’s) assistance to work through it. During this conversation, and to ensure you don’t become part of the conflict, use reported speech to stay independent.

Useless strategy No. 2. – I’ll call them into a room and tell them to ‘grow up’.

Hmm, did you appreciate being told to ‘grow up’ when you were a child? No? So, why would your adult employees appreciate being told the same at work? If there is a conflict between staff, telling them to ‘grow up’ isn’t going to address the issues. A conflict can mean there is a difference of understanding or perception and unless your employees get to talk about the real issues, the conflict won’t go away.

Don’t be fooled. If you’ve done this before:

“The conflict may be hidden from your view, but it’s still there.”

I recently managed a conflict that had been going on for five years. Like cheap wine, conflict becomes sourer with age.

To address conflict once and for all, provide your employees with the opportunity to talk about what has happened and how they can, once again, work with each other. You can manage this process,or you can call in a conflict manager or workplace mediator to manage it for you.

Useless strategy No. 3. – I’ll change the shift/location of one of them, so they don’t have to work together.

We’ve probably all been guilty of receiving a call from friends who are about to ‘drop in’ and the kitchen is a mess. The first thing we do is stuff the dishwasher as full as possible to hide last night’s dinner, this morning’s breakfast and other random things lying around. That means it’s out of sight and out of mind and we come off looking well organised – well in the kitchen at least!

Unfortunately, the same strategy doesn’t work when there is conflict in the workplace (No, I’m not suggesting you put your employees in the dishwasher). But there is a very common practice when two employees aren’t getting on that one of them is moved, hidden from view. They are either required to work in another location, another team or put onto another shift.

“I have yet to hear how this strategy ‘manages the conflict’ and helps your employees. In fact, it makes things a whole lot worse for them and your Small Business.”

Unresolved conflict doesn’t dissipate into thin air. People will keep talking about it, they could try to bring other people into the conflict and so what was once an issue between two can now be blown out of proportion and you have many more joining in. The morale in your workplace will plummet if this happens.

The dishes thrown into the dishwasher will eventually have to be stacked properly before they get washed and become clean. So too, with workplace conflict, your employees will need to meet to discuss the issues and come to an understanding, if not an agreement before they can move on. It is in your best interest, as the Small Business owner, that this happens. Here’s how you can encourage employees to meet.

Managing conflict in the workplace is like everything else we have to do as Small Business owners, we have to acknowledge it is part of running a business. If we choose to ignore it, we face losing money, time, staff morale and our reputation.

Is managing workplace conflict poorly, or not at all, worth that?

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