From Smirks to Smiles: Resolving Conflicts with Difficult Employees
Managing a dispute between two employees is one thing, but the real challenge comes when you’re one of the irritated parties in a conflict. Emotions can get the best of anyone. If you can take a step back and assess the situation, you’ll come out with even the most unreasonable person ready to move on and find a solution. To turn a seemingly hopeless impasse into a chance to strengthen team mentality, follow these tips.
Aim for More Personal and Fewer Digital Interactions
If a fight starts between employees through chat, email, or other electronic means, it’s best to not resolve it that way. Getting people to meet in person is better and can dissolve the previous conflict instantly. Once the people meet in person, they realize that neither person is in fact too angry to meet, which is a big sign of effort to understand each other.
You may wonder, then, what to do if you can’t arrange a physical meeting, either because of practical reasons or anger. In that case, find a new format for communication that is as personal as possible. A scheduled phone call, an online chat, and other private options give people a similar sense of being together in person.
Recognize Potential Misunderstandings
Misunderstandings that stem from inadequate communication can be a real pain in the workplace. When it’s just one person misunderstanding another, the listener usually makes note of it, the speaker clarifies, and things get back on track. Many verbal conflicts between employees happen because both people misunderstood each other.
If you’re frustrated with someone, then see it within that framework. Remember that the person you’re interacting with has chosen to behave the way that feels most prudent to him. Chances are he doesn’t purposely intend to incite your anger. Directly ask the person to clarify their message, and tell him how you perceived it.
Don’t Refer to Authority Immediately
If the conflict is still is a moderately small stage, don’t make it officially a big deal by alerting a boss or manager to the situation. There is always a chance that this will backfire when both parties do so. Letting a superior in on the situation can either help or hurt, but it’s a roll of the dice. Some coworkers respond poorly to the idea that they’ve been told on and will perceive the tattler as a threat to their job.
Each workplace is different, so if someone has a masters in conflict resolution and a good reputation for intervening in conflicts without escalating them, go ahead and see them privately. Don’t tell them to jump in, but ask what the best course of action is.
In a perfect world, people wouldn’t get into arguments, and if they did, they could solve them together every time. If you are aware of a difficult employee situation, or if you’re in one, you have to be adaptable and figure out the details. Only then can you set up the right interaction to make amends.