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How to Resolve Conflict Between Employees Using Compromise

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Casual business people arguing at the office and discussing how to resolve conflict

Ever hear one of these coming from an employee? “I can’t work with him. He always thinks he’s the boss.” or “It’s not fair. She leaves early to pick up her kids and I have to pick up the slack.” Conflict between employees is a natural part of people working together. And it’s not always a bad thing. But when it starts to affect productivity, it’s time to take action. Learn how to resolve conflict by aiming for win-win solutions using compromise.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

When you’re trying to run a small business, it’s difficult to stop and deal with conflict between employees. That’s why it’s important to understand the nature of conflict and the opportunity it presents for you to build relationships between people with the right approach.

There are a number of options to choose from when addressing conflict. Here are a few of them:

  • Look the other way – Ignore the issue and insist “we all need to just get along.” This might force employees to work it out among themselves but it more likely leads to more conflict down the road.
  • Removal – The idea here is to separate the employees involved. You might assign them to separate schedules or different responsibilities. It might provide some temporary relief but it doesn’t address the cause of the conflict. So it’s likely to resurface again.
  • Slam the hammer – Some call this the “parent” solution. It’s when you tell employees “this is how it’s going to be, end of story.” That can lead to resentment. But more importantly, you miss the opportunity for employees to build problem-solving skills.
  • Compromise – One of the most productive ways of dealing with conflict is to find a solution that everyone can agree on. Each employee may not get everything they want but they arrive at a solution that everyone can live with. This may take a little longer but it’s a way of preserving the working relationship since both parties “win.”

The Payoffs of Compromise

One of the strengths of compromise as a conflict resolution method is that everyone benefits. It’s a win-win. For employees, it lets them walk away with a sense that they were heard. That alone goes a long way toward resolving a situation. In addition, both can save face. That prevents them from harboring resentment that later gets in the way of their ongoing work relationship.

For small business owners, compromise offers several advantages. It prompts your staff to talk with each other and develop problem-solving skills. Those skills can be used again as other conflicts arise. It also promotes a culture of tolerance where it’s okay to have more than one idea. And it does so in a transparent way so neither side feels slighted.

One challenge of this approach is that it may not get to the root cause of the conflict. So the conflict may reoccur. But through your discussion, you may be able to uncover possible causes and investigate them separately.

Tips to Using Compromise

Implementing compromise can take practice. Here are three tips that will help you get started:

  • Stay curious – It’s easy to make quick judgments, especially in emotional situations. So avoid jumping to conclusions. Ask questions to uncover more details.
  • Avoid being a sponge – People in conflict can easily create the same feelings in you. So resist absorbing their emotions and taking them on as yours. Focus on reflecting their feelings, instead use summary statements such as, “So you feel like . . .”
  • Establish ground rules – Let people know what the expected outcome is—for both sides to give on some things so they end up with something everyone can agree on.

Looking for more? Here are 10 additional tips for handling workplace conflicts. Compromise can be an effective tool for resolving conflict in a way that leaves both parties satisfied. That helps you solve the immediate issue and establishes building blocks for more constructive work relationships.

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