4 Expert Ways to Reduce Conflict in Your Small Business Environment

Conflict resolution is often not something small business owners give much thought to when they start employing staff for the first time. However, there will be instances when employees don’t get along with you, other employees and even customers. 

Smart and experienced business owners anticipate the possibility that there will be conflict at some point. With this in mind, they enlist the help of contract lawyers Melbourne companies rely on to create legally binding contracts. Doing this minimises the risk of potential litigation and sets the stage for good working relationships. What else can you do?

Top Tips to Address Workplace Conflict

Part of your role as a business owner is intervening and resolving an issue to avoid further escalation. To help you with this process, our experts have compiled a list of pointers worth considering. 

  1. Set Clear Guidelines for Expected Behaviour

When you’re setting up employee contracts, it’s crucial to include a section that details how employees should behave toward each other, management, vendors and most importantly customers. This should include a process for them to follow when they are faced with conflict.

It’s also important to clearly define the chain of command as well as each person’s specific responsibilities in the workspace. When each employee knows what is expected of them, there’s potentially less chance of them overstepping their responsibilities which is a top reason for workplace conflict. 

  1. Don’t Choose Sides

As the manager or business owner, you should never choose sides. It’s important to remain empathetic to all parties involved, including witnesses. Staying impartial is important to show employees that you’re allowing them to express their version of events. 

After listening to all versions of the events that led to the conflict, you will need to guide the parties to common ground. Remind them that they need to reach a positive outcome to not only avoid a future issue but to continue being able to serve customers. It’s important to emphasise that in this environment, the business comes first. 

  1. Aim For a Fair Resolution

When one of the parties feels you haven’t resolved the problem amicably, they may feel there’s grounds for litigation. This is especially the case in very severe conflicts and can involve employees or even customers. 

It’s important to rely on the expertise of the commercial litigation lawyers Melbourne organisations use to create an effective conflict resolution system. One of the key aspects here is to encourage open and constructive dialogue. While it’s important to respect each party’s opinion, it’s essential to focus on the facts and guidelines presented in each person’s contract. 

  1. Understand Conflict Management Techniques

There are also several techniques you can apply to resolve conflict. Here are the most common:

  • Problem-solving: Here you allow each party the opportunity to discuss the issue at hand with an open mind. Their focus should be to resolve the issues, based on what’s best for the team. Encourage them to rise above their personal emotions with the sole intention of resolution. Highlight that this is not the time to prove who may be right. The goal here is collaboration. It’s the most effective technique and produces the most desirable outcome.
  • Compromising: In some types of conflict, the only way forward is by compromising. This may lead to one or both parties having to find the middle ground. Parties may need to give up something to find a resolution. Keep in mind that this is not a permanent fix and leaves both parties feeling as though the situation is unresolved. Use this technique to get a matter resolved so that the day’s business can move forward. You will have to revisit the issue to resolve it completely.
  • Forcing: When the conflict between two employees is interfering with the daily running of your business, you may decide to use your power to force an opinion that resolves the conflict. This usually leads to a win-lose outcome, where one person “gets what they want” and the other doesn’t. Use this technique when a quick compromise can’t be reached, and the current behaviour is preventing the team from moving forward with their work. As with the compromising technique, this is not a permanent solution and will need to be revisited when the team is less busy. 

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Final Thought

It’s essential to encourage open conversation and communication between you and your employees. This will go a long way toward allowing them to feel comfortable enough to discuss brewing issues with you before they escalate into more serious problems. 

Be sure to encourage staff to always consider the team, business and customers’ best interests when looking for a way to deal with a negative situation. Have regular training sessions that teach employees some positive techniques to resolve conflict on their own. Doing this will make for more productive employees and a welcoming working environment for all.