If you’ve ever supervised two or more workers who genuinely don’t get along, then you know that this type of attitude can turn a productive worksite into a toxic and inefficient environment. One thing to understand about workplace conflict is that, if dealt with correctly, it can actually be a great team-building experience and lead to process improvements. If ignored, it can escalate and turn disastrous—especially on a worksite where angry or fighting employees can jeopardize the safety of those around them.
Tips for managing employee conflict
Review your conflict resolution practices and ensure that you know how to effectively handle disputes amongst your crew. Below we’ve compiled five tips for managing employee conflict and keeping your worksite safe and productive:
Maintain a zero-tolerance policy
Implement a zero-tolerance policy for violence at your worksite. Make sure your employees understand that the consequence for acting out in a violent manner could result in immediate termination. A disagreement or argument is one thing, but violence should never be permitted.
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Disagreements at work happen all the time, and for the most part, your employees should be able to resolve things themselves. Remember that stepping in as a manager will tend to escalate the situation, so before jumping in to stop a disagreement, consider the severity and frequency of conflict between these workers—is this the first time it’s happened or a reoccurring theme? Is the argument emotionally charged and is there potential for violence?
Take preventative action
If you notice that a conflict is reoccurring daily or has the potential to turn violent, you need to step in. Talk to each worker separately to let them know that you are aware of the situation and will be monitoring their behavior. Reiterate your company policy of zero tolerance for violence and remind them that acting out in such a manner will lead to immediate termination. Make sure to listen to all sides of the story and if you feel it would be helpful, bring both employees into the same room and play referee while you all work to find a solution.
Stop the fight
If a physical fight does break out, do not jump in. Never step between two violent workers or you may become the victim. Proper authorities need to be contacted if the violence is resulting in injury and the police should get involved. Advise the fighting workers that termination will be a consequence and that police or proper authorities will be called.
If you’re on a worksite with security, they should be notified as well. Keep in mind that if both parties were engaged in the fight/being violent, then both should be held equally accountable, regardless of who instigated the fight. The only time you may want to reconsider termination is if one person was simply fending off the attacker or trying to get away.
Consult your employee handbook
In addition to your zero-tolerance policy, your company likely has protocols in place for what must be done when an intense but non-violent conflict breaks out between workers. Follow these guidelines to the letter and always consult your HR representative. Typically, you will be required to document the exchange, counsel each employee according to corporate disciplinary guidelines, and write reports to go into each employee’s file. If you don’t have a policy on employee conflict resolution, now is the time to create one.
Animosity in your ranks can make your worksite feel like a war zone. Act quickly when a fight or intense argument breaks out and leave no question in the minds of your workers about the consequences of this type of behavior. Furthermore, lead by example and promote a culture of respect and communication. When you are open and honest, your workers are likely to follow suite.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.