Staff Problems: Ending Employee Disputes

    October 16, 2006

Problems between people happen everywhere in your life. Whether at the grocery checkout line, during public events, within families, or at your place of business.

Defusing the issues before they morph into an explosive and destructive battle is essential. For business people, staff problems must be solved quickly and without hurting employee productivity and morale. No one said it would be easy.

The first step to solving interpersonal staff issues is to identify that they exist within your organization. Many business owners and managers are oblivious to staff disputes entirely. Often, if the issues are recognized, the management response is to ignore them, and hope that the problems resolve themselves. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Much more likely is an escalation of hostilities, bringing other people into the battle on various sides. The ostrich head in the sand approach is almost always doomed to failure.

A good starting point for dispute settlement is to call the quarreling parties into your office. Ask them to talk out their concerns one at a time, without interruption from the other person. Take notes of what each person says is the main issue. Very often, common ground can be discovered and the issue settled very quickly. Usually, the problems began in simple misunderstandings, or from a lack of knowledge of the other employee’s role and job responsibilities. Nipping the argument in the bud can settle many employee problems quickly and painlessly.

Unfortunately, some employee battles are more complex, and have deeper and longer running issues. Left to fester, the wounds can result in almost open warfare in the business. Employee morale and productivity can decline dramatically. Even more serious undermining or outright sabotage can result. The bottom line can suffer huge losses from unchecked interpersonal strife. More indepth work is required to get to a peaceful settlement.

As always, the divided parties must be called into the office and the issues discussed. In long running battles, this first step may only get to an uneasy, and probably short lived truce. The talking out of the issues at hand are helpful for management as the facts of the matter become known. Many times, management oversights created the environment for the problems in the first place. Removing these impediments to employee cooperation can go far toward restoring harmony in the workplace. Of course, changes to the operation take time and the personal disputes must still be stopped.

Drastic measures may become necessary for deep seated problems. They may include hiring a mediator, employee disciplinary action, transfers of personnel to other departments, reassignments of job responsibilities, or even employee dismissal. Each case is different and these are choices only for when talking and mediation break down. The key is to stop minor issues from growing into your own Hatfield and McCoy feuds.

Talk to your employees, and understand their concerns. Companies that have weak internal communications often have the most employee issues. Instead of understanding and open discussion, rumour and innuendo rule those workplaces. Open channels of two way conversation can prevent many staff issues from every developing in the first place. Secrecy is the enemy of good employee relations.

Keep those lines of communication open and fewer employee problems will ever occur.

Should interpersonal friction happen despite your best efforts at prevention, address the problems immediately. Prompt action can prevent all out staff feuds from taking over your place of business.

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