Every business has a few co-workers who just don’t get along.
In my retail and business experience, which goes back more than a decade, I’ve seen many of these situations first hand. I’ve seen verbal sniping, reports to managers, threats and even a memorable shoving and shouting match that took four co-workers to break up. You can hire painstakingly and well, but it’s impossible to avoid entirely.
So how can you mitigate and mediate employee disputes so it doesn’t get to fisticuffs? There’s a few different ways, as it turns out. With an assist from the SmartBlog on Leadership, I present a list of those ways for your consideration:
- Mediate effectively. By this, I mean take control of the session. SmartBlog on Leadership suggests starting with an icebreaker and easing your way into the grievances, which is a good move. Divert the rage to a different topic and then circle back to the issues at hand. It will help to defuse the situation a bit.
- Don’t ignore it. You may be tempted to let employees bicker and let their co-workers police them. That’s a bad idea. Instead, get involved and get to the bottom of the dispute. If you need to separate the two into different departments, do it. If you need to get team members involved, do so. If you think a mediation session will help, set one up. The worst thing you can do is hover on the periphery and watch as the situation gets worse.
- Don’t threaten. It may be fun to have an exchange like this:Employee 1: He started it! He took my stapler.
Employee 2: Nuh-uh!
You: If you kids don’t knock it off, I’m pulling this office over! And by that, I mean firing both of you!
Ultimately, though, you’ll just further embitter the employees. Never make threats you’re not prepared to follow up on, lest the rest of the office see you as weak. Instead, offer constructive advice and criticism, listen and keep a positive face on at all times. Your goal should always be to defuse the situation, not exacerbate it.
I’m sure you have more great tips for your fellow small business bosses. Please share them in the comments.