Tension in personal situations is awkward enough, but apply that to the workplace and it can be downright uncomfortable. As a business owner, managing tension and conflict between employees is an inevitable part of the job — and if not handled promptly can put a huge dent in your bottom line. 

In 2017, Inc. cited a landmark study on workplace conflict that found U.S. employees spend 2.8 hours a week dealing with conflict. This equates to an estimated $359 billion in paid company hours. 

Fortunately, there are effective ways to manage tension among your team to help maintain a positive work atmosphere and company culture. 

1. Acknowledge the Conflict Immediately

Don’t sit back and hope your employees will work the situation out on their own, allowing the tension to build. This can lead to negative consequences for your business, such as poor productivity and low office morale. Acknowledge the conflict between the involved parties immediately, and respectfully uncover the nature of the issue along with the facts. 

2. Decide How You Want to Meet with the Employees Involved  

Meeting with each employee individually at an objective location (like a coffee shop) allows each person to honestly explain their point of view. Pollack Peacebuilding Systems, a conflict resolution company, recommends asking about the conflict and any issues at work overall, noting things they appreciate about the other person and how they think the issue could be resolved. Then bringing both parties together to discuss the aforementioned conflict, where you (the business owner/manager) act as the mediator. 

3. Brainstorm Solutions and Find a Common Ground 

To aid in rebuilding a productive working relationship, it’s important to brainstorm possible solutions together and find a common ground where both employees feel heard. Once a list of ideas has been put together, determine a fair compromise. Each employee will need to give a little for the sake of working together. This won’t be easy and will take time, but is a necessary step to restore a positive work environment. 

4. Implement the Agreed Upon Solutions 

If no action comes from addressing the situation, the problem will remain unresolved, if not become worse. Employees could feel like you don’t care about the health of the culture and will be less likely to come to you if and when another conflict arises. Once a common ground has been determined, be sure that the solutions are implemented. This means regularly checking in to ensure the employees are making good on the agreed upon compromises. 

Even with these conflict management techniques, there are some people who simply won’t change their behavior. If an employee has been warned, but is:

  • Constantly involved in workplace drama
  • Verbally harassing co-workers 
  • Bringing down the morale and productivity of the team 

It’s time to let that person go. Firing someone is never easy, but keeping a toxic person on your team will hinder the success of your business. 

Note: For tips on how to deliver the hard news, check out this article by business.com. 

While workplace conflict is inevitable, there are things you should implement (if you haven’t already) to help promote a peaceful and respectful working culture that proactively mitigates tension. 

Cultivating a Culture of Respect 

Cultivating a culture of respect starts at the top, with upper level management, and trickles its way down. It’s important to keep that in mind throughout each of the below tips. Here are just a few ways to develop a culture of peace and respect in the workplace: 

Define the Culture

Make a list of your core company values, in addition to behaviors and actions your company won’t tolerate. If you don’t know what you want your company culture to look like, how can others expect they should behave? 

Set Expectations

Your employee handbook should have a section on workplace policy, behavior and actionable consequences for not adhering to guidelines. Have employees sign a document that affirms they understand workplace policy and procedures upon hiring. 

Host Trainings 

In addition to training employees on their job duties, host trainings on inclusivity, diversity, how to report harassment and how to address conflict. 

Owning a business comes with a lot of responsibilities, and unfortunately, managing tension among your employees is one of them. However, the more proactive solutions you implement to mitigate tension and engaged your team is, the more productive, happy and successful your company will be!

Have you had to deal with workplace tension recently? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments!

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