Dealing With Conflict At Work

Conflict in the workplace can derail projects, erode employee morale and have a negative impact on your brand. But you can turn what may seem negative into a positive situation. Here are some examples of successful conflict resolution you can use to navigate friction at work.

Conflict Between Employees

Let’s say you run a small print shop in a college town that caters to faculty and students. Jeff, your client-facing customer service representative, is responsible for accepting work and getting it to Laura, your production manager, who facilitates printing.

A job comes in and is printed with a typo, which infuriates Laura who thinks it's Jeff’s responsibility to proof work before it gets to her. Jeff, on the other hand, believes his focus should be on getting repeat business from clients and finding new ones. He says he doesn’t have time to proof and feels it’s not his responsibility.

This conflict has identified a broken link in the chain of work, specifically in the area of proofing. As the business owner, it’s a function you can address a variety of ways, as long as you make sure it’s covered. You may have to include proofing in Laura’s job description or in Jeff’s, or you may decide it’s worth allocating someone new to the position. Regardless of your choice, the conflict has helped identify and close a critical loop.

Additional examples of employee conflict resolution can be found here.

Conflict Between Employees and Management

As the owner of a restaurant, you stand to generate more business when big events take place in town. As such, you like to extend your hours of operation when these happen. You’ve heard through the grapevine, however, that some of your employees aren’t thrilled with this approach. And, on more than one occasion, some of them have called in sick on days when your hours have been extended.

While you can approach this many ways, you’ll want to carefully assess the proper way to go about it. On the extreme end of the spectrum, you could fire the employees who fail to show up, however, the message it sends to your remaining staff may negatively impact morale. On the other end, you could hold an all-staff meeting reiterating your restaurant’s policy during conventions. However, this may lead those who are toeing the line to feel they’re unjustly being targeted.

Your third option may be to speak to those employees who call in sick individually. Ask them why they are unable to work extended hours, and you may find they have legitimate reasons, such as childcare issues. If so, it’s up to you to decide if you want to work with these employees or give them the opportunity to find a job that better accommodates their situation.

Conflict Between Employees and Customers

Every so often, a conflict will arise between a customer and an employee. Given the nature of these, they must be handled delicately since customers have a variety of outlets to express their displeasure, especially via social media.

Unless the customer complaint or issue is an egregious lie or outrageous claim, it’s almost always best to fall back on the adage, “the customer is always right.” By giving him or her the benefit of the doubt, you can save a relationship and perhaps gain an advocate. It’s also important to address the situation with your employee and validate their position, so they know they’re appreciated and that the decision on how to handle the customer complaint is founded in feedback from both the customer and the employee.

Conflict at work is never easy, but it can have a silver lining when resolved correctly. Your job is to manage it in a way that helps reveal the positive outcome.

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