How to Resolve Employee Conflict [Complete Guide]

One-third of our lives will be spent on working. How would you feel if for that one-third of your life, constant employee conflict is present at your workplace? Worse, what if you’re the employee in conflict with another?

When there’s discord or tension in the workplace, it doesn’t just affect those that are directly involved. It also affects everybody. When people are working together, having conflicts or disagreements is normal.

Not all of us think alike and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, disrespect is different. People can disagree at the office but being disrespectful is another story. Here are some shocking statistics from the report “Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It”:

  • On some level, 85% of employees deal with conflict.
  • 49% of conflict is a result of “warring egos” and clash of personalities.
  • 34% of conflict involves front-line employees.
  • 34% of conflict is caused by work stress.
  • 33% of conflict is caused by too much workload.
  • 29% of employees deal with conflict constantly.
  • 27% of employees have witnessed conflicts that lead to personal attacks.
  • 25% of employees have seen conflict as cause of absence or sickness.
  • 12% of employees stated they witness conflict among the senior team on a frequent basis.
  • 9% of employees witness a project fail because of conflict.

As you can see, employee conflict can be detrimental not just to those directly involved, not just to the entire workforce but to the whole organization itself. A conflict can be enough to derail productivity and can even go as far as ruining the image of the business.

According to Harvard, the top 1% of workers in terms of productivity add around $5,000 per year. Meanwhile, toxic employees can cost businesses around $12,000 per year. Imagine what would happen if the toxic workers get in conflict with top employees.

Now, that we know how poisonous to the organization conflicts can be, let’s proceed on how we can resolve employee conflict.

Know the Reason Behind Employee Conflict

There can be different scenarios when there’s employee conflict. Employees involved could be avoiding each other, there can be rumors and there could be quarrels here and there. While the first step to resolve employee conflict is to know the reason behind it, never take sides or listen to rumors regardless of how the situation is.

If the conflict comes to a point wherein it needs to be addressed, call the attention of the employees directly involved. From hereon, hear their opinions but take their opinions with equal weight.

You can begin begin by starting with this question, “what’s going on? What is happening from your point of view?”. However, limit their time for only a minute as they could go on for so long just trying to speak out their frustrations and disappointments.

Is it because they are stressed? Are they overworked? Do they have different styles in approaching objectives?

Encourage them to speak from their perspective beginning with “I”. For example, “I see it this way…”. The point of this is for them to only share what’s from their point of view without having to say anything about the other person or group. 

There’s no need to mention other people’s name or to blame others. Discourage statements like “because of him or her or them, it’s their fault for, they wanted something else, etc”. Instead, have them explain in this type of manner:

  • This is how I feel…
  • Here’s what I noticed…

It can be anything as long as they only explain it only through their perspective without naming or blaming others. 

Find their Common Ground

After knowing the personal reasons of the people involved, resolve the conflict by knowing what their common ground is. Even if both sides are at polar opposites, a common ground can be worked on.

Make them realize that together, they are all allies. There are no enemies because they all strive to achieve the same goal. In fact, the conflict might have happened because both sides just wants the best for everyone.

As what Jeffrey Pfeffer of Harvard Business Review said, “it’s easy to become aggravated by other people’s actions and forget what you were trying to achieve in the first place.”

Remind them that everyone’s thoughts and ideas are important and they need to be heard. Cutting off someone’s speech to say yours won’t make the other person listen. All that will be in their head are the words dying to be said out loud.

Let them hear out each other’s points, the advantages of their ideas and how they can come up with a plan wherein everyone is in agreement. Ask each side what they need from each other and they can realize that they can have a common ground.

If you find it hard to resolve employee conflict, consider hiring an experienced HR professional. They can always help out in these types of situations.

To summarize, here’s how you can resolve employee conflicts:

  1. Know the reason behind the conflict.
  2. Don’t listen to rumors.
  3. Call the attention of the people directly involved.
  4. Let them give their explanations without naming or blaming others, keep it under a minute.
  5. Hear their opinions equally.
  6. Find a common ground
  7. Implement action that works for everyone

We hope this article was able to help you out with knowing how to resolve employee conflict. If your organization currently has employee conflict, follow these steps and they can help you out with your trouble. Good luck!