Navigating Coworker Conflict (from an owner’s perspective)

Unresolved or unaddressed conflicts at work can impede productivity and impact staff morale. While these situations are often a normal consequence of people working closely together, there are some tactics that will help to defuse these common occurrences and get your team back on track.

Conflict in the workplace

A successful mediation may even set the stage for increased productivity and provide affirmation to your team that their hard work and efforts are greatly appreciated. Let’s take a look at some of the skillsets that business owners can implement for successful mediation during coworker conflict. Some of these are in direct response to conflict while others are more preventative in nature.

Communicate the importance of professionalism in front of customers

One of the most important things that any business owner can communicate to their staff is that arguing in front of customers will not be tolerated. While you can express to them that conflict is not unexpected, you want them to understand that arguments in front of customers make the business seem very unprofessional and result in the likely loss of business.

Get everyone involved in the conversation and discuss how this policy provides a sense of value, purpose, and appreciation for the company’s end goals.

Foster cohesion between employees

One of my core values as CEO of a medical equipment company is to build and establish relationships within the many members of my team. My favorite way of doing this is by rewarding team behavior with simple things like a paid lunch and bigger items like team outings. This rapport leads to efficacy and productivity, and a sense of unity among those working toward common goals and sales achievements. When you foster a sense of solidarity among staff and team members, conflict seems to arise less often.

Show impartiality between coworkers

Avoid choosing sides during workplace conflict whenever possible by using empathy to put yourself in the position of each person vying to have their side reinforced or supported. As a leader, it often falls to me to make tough decisions among coworkers. Use this as an opportunity to hear what both parties have to say and to understand each viewpoint before passing judgment.

Strive for transparency when conflict arises

Don’t handle crisis or conflict behind closed doors. Be transparent, and give the entire team the opportunity to get together and garner the full picture. When it comes to mediating issues among your staff, call for a group meeting to resolve the issue promptly. Transparency prevents misunderstandings, miscommunication, and conspiracy theories.

Recognize accomplishments frequently

A little recognition can go a long way. This is one of the benchmarks of synergistic communication, and it can really help to release internal conflict among coworkers. Laud your team for their contributions and achievements; this may help each team member be more receptive toward constructive criticism during disputes and contention.

Address conflict as soon as possible

Don’t postpone mediating conflict among colleagues or team members as this may exacerbate the underlying concern or problem. Act immediately to nip potential issues in the bud, as well as to prevent the ripple effects that conflict in the workplace can cause. At the same time be conscious of times where employees need to cool off before they can communicate clearly.

Set your expectations from the start

Conflict and disputes will arise in any workplace. An effective leader will be able to air out the issues at play and give everyone on their team the chance to be heard. Be sure to deal with these situations as they arise, rather than push them to the back burner, where they may be afforded the time to simmer and boil over into the workplace dynamics.


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