How to Effectively Manage Workplace Conflicts within a Small Business

(c) Andy Feltham WorkplaceWorkplace conflicts within a small business have the potential to be disastrous.

Each personality within an organisation has a far greater bearing on the overall team when the numbers are few, meaning that any ongoing grievances can quickly have a negative impact on motivation and productivity. Fortunately, there are several ways to help effectively manage these conflicts and limit their blast radius, with the end goal aiming to reunite the workforce and return to a positive environment.

  1. Do NOT Ignore It.

As a manager, you cannot afford to simply ignore conflict and hope that the people involved will simply resolve their differences and move on. Time is of the essence when it comes to reaching a successful resolution as negativity within the small business environment can quickly spread across an entire department. Conflict certainly isn’t something that should be feared. Indeed, a great deal of positives can be drawn from difficult scenarios such as this. Paradoxically they can bring a team closer together by allowing staff members to get whatever issues they are having off their chests in a responsible manner.

  1. Communicate Together as a Team.

Nothing stands in the way of conflict resolution more than when those involved feel that they are being marginalised or feel they are only hearing half the story. This is a time for transparency across all parties as any issues which remain unaddressed will be sure to rear their ugly heads again further down the line. As important as self-mediation is, it’s also a time-consuming process that can have a severe impact on your own morale, so it’s essential that everything is brought to the fore at the earliest opportunity. There’s an excellent blog by small business legal advisors, Lawbite, which goes into more detail about how to manage workplace conflicts within small businesses.

Each personality within an organisation has a far greater bearing on the overall team when the numbers are few, meaning that any ongoing grievances can quickly have a negative impact on motivation and productivity.

  1. Implement Action.

Once everyone has had an opportunity to discuss their grievances, it’s imperative that all parties begin to apply the agreed changes immediately and without compromise. The quick-fix solutions of a hand shake or emotional resolution only ever offers a short-term respite from the true conflict. Whether it means seating the parties in different areas of an office or have them working on different projects, action must be taken. As soon as the formal meeting is over, any progress must be documented and sent to all people involved to clarify what is expected of them so that the issue can be put to rest and the business can move on. At the end of the day, if a mediator is required then so be it, although this could prove a costly affair. More information on mediation can be found in ACAS’s mediation guide.

Nothing stands in the way of conflict resolution more than when those involved feel that they are being marginalised or feel they are only hearing half the story.

Nobody wants a business full of ‘yes men’ and the strong characters that can drive your company’s success will often be the same people who challenge earlier and potentially lead to conflict. Conflict can be a healthy attribute as it encourages the creation of new ideas and opinions, but it is down to the manager to maintain the status quo and make sure that any potential problem is spotted early and quickly eliminated.

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