A Business Owner’s Guide To Conflict Resolution In The Workplace

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As a business owner, and especially if you are a new one, the idea of conflict in the workplace can be a little daunting. Or, very daunting, because nobody likes the idea of employees clashing or of one employee being unhappy when they come into work. 

The truth is that conflict can be a great thing! Here is why you should embrace conflict at work and, if the conflict is not a productive conflict, how best to solve it through alternative methods. 

Embracing Conflict 

Studies show that up to 85% of employees experience conflict in the workplace. It seems to be an unavoidable and inevitable part of the work experience. Conflict is natural, and can be expected when a team of individuals with differing personalities come together and work toward a common goal.  

It is entirely possibly for conflict to be healthy — for conflict to be constructive and productive, with team members co-existing in a space that promotes open communication and respect for one another. Let us dive into what makes healthy conflict great: 

Conflict Promotes Growth 

Differences in opinion on how to move forward on a project or how to run part of the business can definitely lead to sensitive issues — there is no denying that — but instead of promoting backlash and a “one way or the highway” approach, this is an opportunity to learn from others, practice active listening and consider other perspectives. 

Differences in perspective, when used to everyone’s advantage, can only serve to grow the team as individuals and as a group.  The open exchange of differing opinions can lead to new, profitable ideas for a business and help a business avoid costly mistakes.  As a business owner, you would not like to miss out on an employee’s creative idea because that employee was afraid of conflict.  Conversely, you would also dislike moving forward with a bad idea when an employee has identified the problem but is afraid to speak up. 

Conflict Improves The Work Environment 

It is completely okay to disagree with another person. Your workforce should know that you understand this and are open to talking through it with them. This is an opportunity to display your willingness to hear the opinions of your staff so they always know that when you say there is an open door policy, you mean it. 

By creating this environment, you are empowering employees and, in turn, gaining the loyalty of your staff because it is refreshing to go to work at a place when everyone has open respect for each other. 

When Conflict Is Hard 

The unfortunate reality of conflict is that you may sometimes come across conflict that is not exactly productive. When conflict gets to this place, it could need a more robust dispute resolution method.  

Unproductive conflict can exist between business owners, staff members or any other pairing. When conflict gets to a place where it is necessary to bring in a third-party individual to help resolve the conflict, here are two common ways you can go about it: 

Mediation 

Mediation has a simple premise: A mediator, who is a neutral third-party, guides the conversation between the parties in a conflict. The end goal is to come to an agreement that both parties are happy with. Mediation is non-binding so the idea is for the resolution to be mutually beneficial, with both parties committed to doing their part.  

In mediation, you can expect the mediator to have an opening statement where they talk about the rules of mediation and what the goal of the meeting is. Then, each party will have the opportunity to explain their perspective of the situation and what they are hoping for at the end of the mediation. The parties will discuss the issues that need to be addressed, followed by negotiations where the parties talk through solutions until they are able to come to one that they both agree on. 

Mediation can be viable conflict resolution method because the control lies with the involved parties. It is a way to still promote active engagement in the process of coming to the solution so that all parties involved can still feel heard and in return, are more open to complying with the next steps they have agreed to take.   Further, mediation allows to parties to craft solutions they all agree to that would not available in litigation. 

Arbitration 

Arbitration also has a simple premise: An arbitrator, yet another neutral third-party, hears each party’s argument and then decides on a fair solution for both sides. Similar to a trial, an arbitrator will hear statements and be presented with evidence, then issue a decision based on the facts given. 

Arbitration can be voluntary or mandatory, depending on a previously agreed upon business contract. Arbitration can also be binding or non-binding — if binding, the arbitrator’s decision is final; if non-binding, either party has the choice to proceed to trial to continue the dispute. 

Many companies opt for binding arbitration clauses in employment contracts because this option is generally fair and is generally quicker and cheaper than protracted litigation.  Further, the parties can agree that the process be conducted in private instead of in public litigation, where all documents filed and testimony given is open to anyone in the public.    

At the end of the day, it is you, the business owner, who holds the responsible position of developing your workplace and staff. You will want to think about how best to manage conflict, both big and small, so your business can continue to be a place where the focus is simply on being a productive company with a loyal and happy workforce. 

 

Get Assistance From a Florida Business Attorney 

At Kira Doyle Law, we can help you with your employment contracts and dispute resolution, including shareholder/partnership disputes. We also provide important agreements, assistance with entity selection and required business documentation guidance. Contact us today by calling our St. Petersburg office at 727-537-6818 or by completing the form below to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced business attorneys!

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