Manage Conflict with an Employee

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on January 5, 2011

I once read about a business owner who said he didn’t have any unhappy employees because he’d fired them all. I guess that’s one way to approach workplace conflict, but if you’re looking for a way to keep employees in their jobs while diffusing their anger, here are a few suggestions:

First, listen to their perspectives. You may feel you’re being soft if you sit down and talk with the very person you’d like to clobber, but it’s one of the surest ways to calm someone. Listen with the intention of understanding his or her point of view (which isn’t the same as agreeing with them). Saying, "if I understand you correctly, you felt I was disrespectful when I brought up the late reports in the staff meeting" lets your employee know that you heard what was said—but says nothing about agreeing with it. In fact, the point is not to agree or disagree; it is to listen.

Second, come clean about your participation. You’ll probably take your employee by surprise if you say something such as, "I owe you an apology for not dealing with this sooner" or "I realize I haven’t made it easy to talk to me about this." When offering up an apology, be sure to stay away from "I’m sorry that you …" statements. Saying you’re sorry that the other person felt you were disrespectful is not the same thing as saying you’re sorry that you came across as disrespectful. Acknowledging your role is a good strategic move that allows your employee to let down his or her defenses.

Finally, work together to figure out how to avoid similar situations in the future. Opening the lines of communication and acknowledging a conflict is a quick way to move past tense situations without having to take more serious actions.

Vivian Scott
Author
Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies
Snohomish, Wash.

Reader Comments

Bhawar Patel

January 6, 2011 9:57 AM

We have a small business and the there is usually a boat load of conflicts. We always emphasis the business goal/interest and ethics in any debate/conflict to get alignment. We actually encourage being blunt at workplace to avoid frustrations growing within and communicating via a metaphor or a case study to make a point. Never procrastinate issues and always apologize at the first opportunity. Work should be fun not stressful.

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