Fireworks at Work? How to Handle Conflict Resolution in the Workplace
by Margaret Jacoby
Conflict is bound to happen in a workplace. And why shouldn’t it? Conflict occurs everyday in countless ways throughout all areas of our lives. It’s natural. Unfortunately, things can get even more heated when you put professionals in situations in which they believe certain decisions can have a disastrous impact on themselves, their families, and their very well-being.
So, natural, yes. But unnatural, as well, when you consider the millions of conflicts generated seemingly out of thin air. Unfortunately, in most cases the law doesn’t let small business owners pick and choose which conflict is worthy of being entertained. But thankfully, MJ Management Solutions has put human resources solutions in place to better handle conflict resolution in the workplace.
Regardless of the skill and professionalism of your employees, putting multiple personalities together eventually turns into disagreements. While most disagreements are resolved without issue, others can turn into severe conflicts—those of which are in threat of becoming a lawsuit. Luckily, there are ways you can diffuse those workplace fireworks before they catch fire.
Address the Issue Right Away
When fireworks ignite between two employees (management or non-management personnel included), handling the issue right away can prevent it from exploding into a larger one. If you can, address the conflict immediately:
- Define what behaviors are acceptable in the workplace and what behaviors are not. Employees should know to whom they report, and their managers need to know which actions to take to effectively manage conflict resolution in the workplace.
- Tackle (not literally, of course) employee conflict immediately. As a small business owner, you and your accidental HR managers should always “have their ear to the ground” to sense brewing troubles and then intervene before things get out of hand.
- Use conflicts as opportunities for improvement. Every time an employee conflict does arise, it is a valuable opportunity for you and your staff to devise a new protocol so that this type of conflict can be avoided in the future.
What to Do When a Conflict Becomes Serious
Inevitably, some employee conflicts do escalate and can threaten your small business from legal and financial perspectives. When this occurs, it is in your best interest to go through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Also referred to as external dispute resolution, ADR allows parties to come to an agreement outside of the courtroom—and without involving professional litigation.
Typically, ADR sessions involve a neutral evaluation by a third-party that is neither tied to the employee nor the company. This third-party will then negotiate terms, help all parties come up with a mutually agreeable decision and reconciliation plan. Although there may still be some ill will in this phase, a skilled arbitrator or mediator will be able to negotiate and resolve the issue to the satisfaction of both sides.
Why Alternative Dispute Resolution?
ADR keeps your small business and the conflict out of the courtroom. Judges and court officials are not involved in the arbitration, and rarely does a judge intervene with an ADR session. Alternative dispute resolution comes in two forms: mediation and arbitration.
During mediation, a mediator (which is a trained negotiator) is brought in to work out a settlement or agreement between the two parties. Arbitration is typically headed by a third-party panel that is agreed upon by both parties. The opinions of the panel are not the matter of public record.
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