You’re bound to witness or experience conflict in your small business. Knowing how to handle and defuse employee conflict can promote a healthy, productive workplace. But sometimes, people prefer to avoid conflict rather than address it.
As the head of your business, you can’t run away from conflict. Instead, you need to hone your leadership skills to successfully address tense situations.
Are your employees arguing about how to complete a project? Or, did a misunderstanding between employees escalate into a complete fiasco? Without the right approach, your conflict-resolution meeting could end up making problems worse.
Being a small business owner doesn’t automatically make you a leader. You must work towards growing as a leader. Otherwise, unaddressed conflict could snowball into employee turnover, high customer churn rates, and a drop in your company’s bottom line.
Here are four key leadership skills that can help you defuse tensions during conflict-resolution meetings.
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Do your employees see you as a composed leader, or are they afraid to talk to you? If you want to lead your employees through conflict, you need to be diplomatic on a daily basis.
Practice diplomacy outside of conflict-resolution meetings. When employees make mistakes, try to remain calm. It’s easy to get emotional—it is your business, after all. But if you become known as the employer who flies off the handle, no employee will want you to mediate conflict.
During conflict-resolution meetings, you might be tempted to take sides before hearing out the full story. But, you must keep your emotions in check while mediating a conflict. You are a neutral party, after all. Keep an open mind and avoid forming an opinion until you have heard both employees’ viewpoints.
If you want to defuse conflict, your communication skills must be sharp. Do people like listening to you, or do you put them to sleep when you talk? Do you ramble on and on to the point that people tune you out?
When you facilitate conflict meetings with employees, address the point of the conversation. Summarize the conflict succinctly and ask your employees to cite specific examples.
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Part of developing great communication skills is knowing when to stop talking and start listening. Don’t push for complete control during the discussion. Listen to both sides of the argument and ask additional questions to help employees clarify their points.
Having integrity means you are willing to do what is right, regardless of the outcome. During conflict-resolution meetings, you need to show yourself as a leader with integrity.
Be fair and honest during the meeting. Don’t favor an employee because they have worked for you longer, hold a higher position, or are a top performer. Avoid judging the situation before doing your due diligence.
For example, a new employee may have a conflict with one of your star employees. Treat both employees with respect. And, give them an equally fair chance to explain their sides of the story.
If you want to turn the conflict into a win-win situation, you may need to get more innovative.
Leaders pave the way for establishing new trends, ideas, and solutions. Dive beyond suggesting basic solutions. Show your employees that you are open to exploring alternative solutions. See how innovative you can get to solve the problem. Ask your employees to share problem-solving ideas, too.
Think up solutions that encourage both parties to adjust their habits, negative mentalities, or inefficient processes.