The loss of a staff member can have serious implications for a business. In fact, research suggests it can cost a business as much as £30k ($41.5K) per employee due to a decrease in output, additional training, and resourcing.
Conflicts with managers and employee conflict often top the list of reasons why staff may leave a job. To help you navigate the muddy waters of conflict in the workplace, eight HR leaders and business owners offer their top tips for preventing and resolving conflict at work.
Handling Conflict1. Don’t Avoid Workplace Conflict
“ Conflict should be addressed head-on before it has the opportunity to escalate and become toxic.” - Stuart Hearn, CEO of Clear Review
Conflict is inevitable, so don’t shy away from it, manage conflict instead. As senior leaders, it is your duty to tackle the issues fairly and swiftly. The sooner you act, the easier it will be to resolve conflict at work.
2. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
“You will never get to truly understand the motive behind the conflict if you’re not able to put yourself in their shoes.” - Shaun Bradley, Director of People at Perkbox
When handling conflict, actively listen and listen carefully to both parties. Put yourself in their day-to-day position to get a true sense of what has motivated the issue.
3. Stick to the Facts
“Where a mutually acceptable outcome isn’t possible, make decisions that are grounded in fairness and understanding.” - Paul Russell, Director of Luxury Academy London
While we’d all like to resolve conflict in agreement, it’s sometimes not possible. So, it’s crucial to stick to the facts and ensure that no personal feelings or agendas enter into the equation.
4. Focus on the Lesson
“Focus on what would you do differently next time, so you would prevent such situation from happening.” - Simona Frumen, Conflict Resolution Expert and Mediator
See conflict as an opportunity for positive change, growth, and improvement. What is the common ground? What can you learn? How can the business benefit from the issues raised?
Preventing Conflict5. Communicate Business Values
“If values are unclear there will be conflict because people will not be sure what makes them a hero or a villain in the organisation.” - Sarah Brown, Co-founder of inspire2aspire
Poor communication is one of the biggest reasons for conflict in a work environment or otherwise. Possessing and communicating company values is essential to any growing business. Company values help to ground decision making, encourage positive behaviours, and help to recruit and retain like-minded employees.
6. Positive Employee Relations
“Positive Employee Relations can be an intangible and enduring asset, a source of sustained competitive advantage.” - Jerome Forde, Forde HR Cloud
Of course, we’d all prefer to avoid conflict arising the first place, so investing in a culture of positive employee relations is essential for a productive workplace. This includes treating all staff with dignity and respect, being transparent, and establishing fair management systems.
7. Lead by Example
“Invest in training programs for your senior staff to learn about how to handle difficult conversations.” - Gavin White, Managing Director at Autotech Recruit
While some employees possess natural management traits, most don't so ensure your leadership teams are well trained and supported.
8. Praise and Training
“Give the team achievable incentives to meet group targets and reward them for working together effectively.” - Emily Gray, Founding Director of Bain & Gray
Dealing with conflict head-on and with these tips in mind can help. It is up to senior management to create an environment of cooperation long term, not competition between staff and team members, and the little things matter. Group activities, days out, well-being workshops, and team lunches help with this effort.
Check out similar articles: Resolving Workplace Conflict With an Assertive Approach
This blog was originally published in May 2018 and has since been updated with new resources and information.