The hardest thing about management is always managing people, because every one of your employees has his or her own personality, preferences, needs and desires, and those can sometimes be at odds with each other. It is part of the job description for management and HR professionals to be able to manage conflict, but it is also important to recognize that conflict is normal and healthy, because it “can spur innovation, diversity of thought and better decision-making.” Here are five suggestions for managing conflict that’s become problematic in the workplace.

1. Assign the Right People to the Right Teams and Projects

You can avoid a lot of conflict in the first place by putting employees where they are best suited. Use your own intuition and ask your employees what projects they most want to work on and think they are best qualified for, and then assign everyone accordingly. This will not only lessen the chances of problematic conflicts arising, but will increase productivity as well.

2. Outline Acceptable Behavior

Another good way to avoid problematic conflicts is to outline acceptable behavior ahead of time and make sure every employee has access to it in writing. When standards are set, employees will know what is and isn’t acceptable and it will make your job easier because you can call out employees who are behaving inappropriately with more authority.

3. Don’t Let Conflict Fester—Address It Right Away

One of the worst things you can do is not tackle conflict head-on when you first see it. Allowing it to fester and grow will be devastating for your team’s morale and will call for more drastic measures later on, which can be more costly and time consuming than if the problem had been addressed properly from the start.

4. Play Mediator

If you have two or more employees constantly clashing, you need to take action. You can talk to them one-on-one, in pairs or even in a group, but it’s imperative that you sit down and help them work something out. Ask the right questions to identify the problem(s) and then offer suggestions or implement new procedures to address them.

5. Fire Problem Employees

If one employee always seems to be the cause of conflict, you should seriously consider letting him or her go. Firing an employee can be an uncomfortable, messy undertaking, but oftentimes, if you’ve done everything in your power to work something out with this employee but they continue to be a poor fit and bring the rest of your team down, it’s time for them to go.

If you don’t have much conflict resolution experience but you’ve found yourself in a management or HR position, make sure to seek out available resources and good advice, because managing conflict is one of your foremost responsibilities in these positions. Following these suggestions will hopefully make your task of managing conflict between employees much easier. Good luck!

Dixie SomersAuthor: Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband. Dixie recommends looking into a masters in organizational development online in order to organize your workplace effectively and avoid conflicts.

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