11 Essential Tips for New Business Owners on Handling Employee Conflict

Navigating employee conflict can be a daunting task for new business owners. We’ve gathered eleven pieces of advice from CEOs and Human Resources managers to provide guidance. From promoting open dialogue and understanding to involving employees in conflict resolution, these insights offer a comprehensive guide to handling workplace disputes.

  • Promote Open Dialogue and Understanding
  • Document Conflicts and Follow Laws
  • Encourage Self-Resolution and Open-Door Policies
  • Handle Conflicts with Objectivity and Fairness
  • Prevent Conflicts by Identifying Stress Points
  • Embrace “Conflict Debrief” and Transparency
  • Avoid Taking Sides, Allow Reflection Time
  • Maintain Neutrality and Open-Mindedness
  • Establish Clear Dispute Handling Policies
  • Reference HR Policies for Impartiality
  • Involve Employees in Conflict Resolution

1. Promote Open Dialogue and Understanding

As a life coach and psychology expert, understanding that the heart of most employee conflicts lies in miscommunication or unmet emotional needs is crucial. Business owners need to cultivate an environment where open dialogue is encouraged.

Whenever a team conflict arises, taking a step back and creating a safe space where each member can honestly express their feelings and concerns is beneficial. Focusing on understanding rather than blindly reacting and jumping to conclusions makes it possible to go deeper into the issue and find a common solution.

Bayu Prihandito, Certified Psychology Expert, Life Coach, Founder, Life Architekture

2. Document Conflicts and Follow Laws

As a business owner, it’s important to have a clear, written policy for dealing with employee conflict and to document each step taken during the conflict resolution process carefully. This should include written records of all complaints, all steps taken in response to the complaints, the final resolution, and any follow-up.

Doing this ensures that the issue is handled consistently and fairly and creates a record that can defend your company in case of a lawsuit. You show that the company took every necessary step to address and resolve the conflict according to established policy.

Also, ensure all actions are by local labor laws and regulations. The best way to prevent lawsuits is to ensure all actions taken are legal, fair, and transparent.

Last, providing regular training on workplace ethics and conflict-resolution techniques can minimize conflicts.

Claire Melehani, Attorney, Gates Eisenhart Dawson

3. Encourage Self-Resolution and Open-Door Policies

When I first started as an employee in the digital landscape, my approach to conflict could have been better. Navigating a commission-based environment added fuel to the fire, where suspicions of lead allocations favoring the manager’s “chosen few” often arose. Such settings can accentuate feelings of unfairness, amplifying the most minor disagreements.

I’d offer new business owners one transformative piece of advice: encourage employees to resolve their disagreements. It promotes personal growth and maturity and fosters a culture of self-reliance.

Additionally, establishing an open-door policy is crucial. It conveys that leadership is approachable and willing to mediate when necessary, ensuring every team member feels heard and valued. These strategies transformed a once-turbulent environment into a harmonious and collaborative space.

Shane McEvoy, MD, LeadFly

4. Handle Conflicts with Objectivity and Fairness

Employee conflict is inevitable at work. We can’t predict which individual will become a nuisance to others upon hiring them.

If you are a new business owner, handle the matter fully, objectively, and fairly.

Situations may arise where employers make an unfair judgment because their favorite person is involved in the case. For instance, consider parties A and B. The latter was found to be at fault, but you ruled in his favor because he is your best friend.

What impression do you have created at your workplace, not just for the other party?

To ensure fairness, set up a panel where both parties will be questioned and allowed to present any evidence they have.

In conclusion, reputation matters most, so it pays to invest time and resources to ensure employee conflict is handled fairly.

Peter Bryla, Community Manager, ResumeLab

5. Prevent Conflicts by Identifying Stress Points

Look for stress points to prevent issues before they arise. Heavy workloads and stress cause sixty percent of conflict, so pinpointing those fissures and working to reduce them can help stop conflict before it starts.

When we’re exhausted, stressed out, and burnt out, it’s easy to get impatient and misplace the blame—especially if you perceive other teammates aren’t pulling their weight. Keep tabs on individual workloads and engagement levels so you can proactively rearrange them and promote collaborative, communicative, and equitable teamwork.

Robert Kaskel, Chief People Officer, Checkr

6. Embrace “Conflict Debrief” and Transparency

In the fast-paced world of beauty tech, we’ve learned that transparency is key. My foremost advice to new business owners regarding employee conflict is: “Embrace the ‘Conflict Debrief’ method.”

Whenever a conflict arises, don’t just resolve it; dissect it. After ensuring emotions have cooled, gather the involved parties for a debriefing session. The focus isn’t on rehashing disagreements but on understanding the root causes.

For example, when two of our marketing team members had differing views on a campaign strategy, the debriefing revealed it stemmed from misaligned communication channels. We then integrated a unified communication platform, mitigating such conflicts. By treating conflicts as growth opportunities, you not only address the symptoms but also fortify your business against future similar challenges.

Zain Ali, Partner, EVENSKYN

7. Avoid Taking Sides, Allow Reflection Time

You mustn’t appear to take sides. Listen empathetically, ask questions to learn the journey of events from both sides and then require a 24-hour quiet period before giving any decisions or constructive feedback. This will give everyone time to calm down, reflect, and be more open to feedback.

Jarir Mallah, Human Resources Manager, Ling App

8. Maintain Neutrality and Open-Mindedness

One piece of advice I would give new business owners about handling employee conflict is to keep a level head and remain neutral. It can be difficult to remember this in the moment, but it’s important not to give in emotion when handling employee disputes. For instance, it’s common for individuals to take things personally and become defensive during disagreements.

As a business owner, I strive to remain open-minded while finding a solution that works for both parties. By avoiding jumping too quickly on one side or another without taking time to gauge the situation from multiple perspectives, you can put your team in the best position possible to find common ground or compromise. This also helps avoid any implications of potential bias, favoritism, or otherwise unequal treatment.

Michael Alexis, CEO, teambuilding.com

9. Establish Clear Dispute Handling Policies

As a business lawyer, one piece of advice I would give to new business owners about handling employee conflict is to establish and enforce clear policies around how any workplace disagreement should be handled. This includes standard operating procedures and policies that employees should follow.

When there is a dispute, it’s important to identify the core issues quickly and provide guidance on how to resolve them. Employees should also feel comfortable speaking up to address the situation constructively when they have a problem or concern.

Amira Irfan, Founder and CEO, A Self Guru

10. Reference HR Policies for Impartiality

Always reference your HR policies. Standing behind your business’s rules will help create a sense of impartiality when deciding how to resolve the conflict. Human resource regulations exist as a standard for solving internal issues and protecting your reputation as an employer. Stick to them.

Otherwise, conflicted employees are likely to feel offended—as if your approach has some bias—especially if it doesn’t work out in their favor.

Michael Nemeroff, CEO and Co-Founder, Rush Order Tees

11. Involve Employees in Conflict Resolution

Involve the affected employees in the conflict-resolution process. It’s best to have them communicate in your presence to agree on a way forward. You’ll serve as a mediator to ensure that their interactions remain within professional boundaries. However, allowing them to create a solution increases the odds that they will both feel heard and satisfied with the outcome of the remediation process.

Stephan Baldwin, Founder, Assisted Living Center

Quick Tips Recap:

  • Open Dialogue: Create a safe space for honest discussions.
  • Document, Document, Document: Make sure it’s all by the book.
  • Self-Resolution and Open Doors: Encourage employees to sort out minor grievances, but keep your door open for serious matters.
  • Be Objective and Fair: Avoid favoritism.
  • Identify Stress Points: Monitor workload and stress levels.
  • Embrace “Conflict Debrief”: Use conflicts as learning opportunities.
  • No Taking Sides: Listen, then pause for reflection.
  • Stay Neutral and Open-Minded: Keep emotions in check.
  • Clear Policies: Set and communicate clear dispute-handling procedures.
  • Reference HR Policies: Use HR policies to guide impartial decisions.
  • Involve Employees: Let them have a say in the resolution.

The Art of Peaceful Battle: A Tactical Guide to Handling Employee Conflict

Your Blueprint for Calm Amidst Workplace Storms

Strategy 1: The Dialogue Oasis

  • Goal: Foster an atmosphere where open communication thrives.
  • Tips: Regular team meetings focused on open discussion, anonymous suggestion boxes, and one-on-ones can help.

Strategy 2: The Paper Shield

  • Goal: Diligently document conflicts to safeguard against legal repercussions.
  • Tips: Keep a digital conflict log, have signed acknowledgments for resolutions, and periodically review records.

Strategy 3: Self-Resolvers’ Club

  • Goal: Empower your employees to resolve minor issues among themselves.
  • Tips: Implement peer-review sessions, encourage mentor-mentee relationships, and promote leadership initiatives.

Strategy 4: The Justice Scale

  • Goal: Be a beacon of fairness and objectivity.
  • Tips: Avoid immediate judgments, set up a neutral panel for grievances, and remove personal bias.

Strategy 5: The Stress Radar

  • Goal: Identify and diffuse stress points before they erupt into conflict.
  • Tips: Periodic workload assessments, stress management seminars, and open dialogues about work-life balance.

Strategy 6: Post-Battle Chronicles

  • Goal: Use a ‘Conflict Debrief’ session to learn and grow.
  • Tips: Schedule these meetings after resolutions, avoid blame games, and focus on ‘lessons learned’.

Strategy 7: The Quiet Chamber

  • Goal: Instill reflection time before making any decisions.
  • Tips: Enforce a mandatory ‘cooling-off’ period and offer resources for personal reflection.

Strategy 8: The Neutral Ground

  • Goal: Maintain impartiality and keep an open mind.
  • Tips: Exercise active listening, consult with third-party advisors if needed, and ensure all voices are heard.

Strategy 9: The Rulebook

  • Goal: Establish a clear protocol for handling conflicts.
  • Tips: Distribute written policies, offer workshops on dispute procedures, and ensure leaders are well-versed in them.

Strategy 10: HR’s Guiding Star

  • Goal: Let HR policies guide you toward impartial resolutions.
  • Tips: Maintain an updated HR handbook, engage in HR training, and consult HR specialists for complex cases.

Strategy 11: The Democracy Table

  • Goal: Involve employees in the conflict resolution process.
  • Tips: Facilitate mediated discussions and encourage employee-generated solutions for a shared way forward.

Extra Nuggets of Wisdom:

Train the Team

Consider offering training sessions in conflict resolution and emotional intelligence. This prepares everyone to handle conflicts more adeptly, reducing the chances of escalation.

Pulse Checks

Regular check-ins or employee surveys can help you gauge the workplace atmosphere. If you sense rising tensions, you can take proactive steps before things boil over.

Third-Party Mediation

Sometimes, conflicts are so tricky that an internal resolution seems impossible. Don’t hesitate to bring in a neutral third-party mediator in such cases.

Celebrate Resolutions

After a successful resolution, consider celebrating it in some small way to signify the end of conflict and the beginning of a more harmonious work relationship.

Learn and Adapt

Finally, don’t forget to adapt your conflict management strategies based on past experiences. Each resolution gives you invaluable data to refine your approach for future conflicts.

In summary, conflict is inevitable but manageable. Everyone wins when you treat each conflict not as a roadblock but as a stepping stone for organizational growth. So go ahead, tackle it head-on—you’ve got this!