TIP 1: Resolve conflict among employees by staying above the fray.
Just as parents undergo stress when their kids act up, supervisors dread when their employees clash with each other. Figuring out how to respond is a complicated and treacherous part of the job.
Playing referee triggers a cascade of stress. There's the harrowing task of having to cool down explosive tempers, the anxiety of making sure you don't take sides, and the fear that a two-person conflict can escalate and envelop an entire unit.
Wait, watch, listen.The first rule of supervising warring workers is to wait, watch and listen. You should not rush to intervene in a dispute. (Of course, we are not talking about violence. We are talking about managing differences.)
Don't give too much attention. By getting involved too soon, you condition employees to think that they'll attract your attention by fighting. And some people crave their supervisor's attention--and will do anything to get it.
Your instant engagement also signals to everyone on your team that when conflict erupts, you will step in right away. They will conclude: I don't have to take responsibility for solving this conflict because my supervisor will settle us down.
Workplace violence rarely erupts in a vacuum. Warning signs include employees who explode into tantrums, experience severe mood swings or threaten to commit violence. Refer individuals to the EAP who exhibit any of these indicators.
The first step to settle employee conflict is to get adversaries to agree about something. Ask questions that begin “Would you both agree to that…?” or “So everyone accepts that…?”