In my many years working in various fields as an associate, educator and a manager, I have encountered workplace conflict. Whether it’s between my employees, between an employee and management, or even clients, it can be challenging to develop solutions that make all parties feel listened to and solve problems. Outlined in this article are tips and advice on how to tackle any work place conflicts you may encounter, and prevent them from escalating into bigger issues.
Coach in the Moment
Sometimes conflicts can be resolved before they begin with coaching. Coaching is where you address poor or incorrect behavior in an associate. This is a great approach if you are a sales lead or manager, as your authority can help give some clout to your coaching. Conflicts can arise when an employee does a task incorrectly and leaves it up to someone else to fix. By working with your employees in the moment and teaching correct behavior, you can make sure the company runs smoothly and there is little room for conflict.
Coaching can also give employees an opportunity to give feedback on policies or tasks they don’t understand. Sometimes conflicts arise between employees and managers over tasks that don’t make much sense or aren’t playing to their employee’s skills. Listening to your employees and finding ways to teach, explain, or modify policies or practices can help reduce friction in the workplace.
I have used coaching heavily in my career, as it provides a casual, yet authoritative way to help build my employees skills while listening to their concerns. Often they have fantastic insight and can alert me to problems before I am aware they exist. Coaching also lets you see real time results of your feedback, as you can monitor behaviors and track how your employee is improving.
Get a Mediator
When conflict arises between two parties, it’s important to talk the issues out with a mediator. It may be possible for the two parties to solve their issues on their own, but often this can lead to uncomfortable or confrontational meetings. A mediator can listen to both sides of the conflict and come with an unbiased opinion on the situation. They can also help both parties see the perspective of the other person involved.
For example, I once had two associates who did not get along working several shifts together. They disagreed on almost every task, and I could hear one of their discussions developing into an argument. I pulled both associates aside individually to hear their concerns, then met with them together to solve the problem. Eventually, they learned to work together and communicate with one another without the tension.
Client Conflict: Provide Excellent Service
Perhaps a client is facing an issue with a product or one of your employees. My motto in this situation is to provide the best customer service while maintaing the integrity of your company. Listen to the client’s concerns and emotions as sometimes people need someone to empathize with their problems. Provide solutions to the issue, even if that means thinking outside the box.
In my retail roles, I have often had to replace defective merchandise for customers who were quite upset. By listening to their concerns and finding an alternative product, I was able to satisfy their needs and make them return to my company. If a customer had dealt with a poor sales experience, I apologize and work to make their current experience the best it can be. Your own approach may vary, but you can make a strong impact with a customer just by treating them fairly.
Additionally, providing an open and honest environment for both your employees and customers can help reduce conflict. Make it clear that you are always willing to listen, and that everyone’s concerns, no matter how small, are important. If the entire team and store environment is a safe space for ideas and concerns, conflicts can be greatly minimized. And minimizing conflict can mean creating a better, more profitable company.