Any small business owners that doesn't work alone has to deal, at some point or the other, with conflict within the workplace. However, unlike with a medium or large company, it's often the business owner who needs to act as a mediator and figure out the best conflict resolution strategy for the problem at hand. Conflict means disagreement between two people, and it is not, by itself, a negative thing. If everybody agreed on everything innovation would grind to a halt. But an emotionally charged conflicting situation can cause great damage, specially for a small business with limited resources.
Establish Channels And Procedures To Manage Conflict
As the boss and business owner, you'll be the one people will turn to when there's a conflicting situation that is degrading into an emotional minefield. In some cases you may need to take steps to bring the situation into the open, as the people involved don't want to call attention to it even if it's affecting the business performance. If your employees know that they can come to you when they have a problem and that there are procedures in place to make sure they are listened to they'll be much more willing to explain what's going on.
One of the easiest ways to facilitate conflict resolution in the workplace is setting up a private meeting with the people involved, giving both of them time to prepare for it so you can help mediate and resolve the conflict. In some cases, a private one to one meeting may be preferable, specially if serious allegations about somebody else's behaviour are involved, but that could leave the other party feeling like they have no right to defend themselves.
Learn To Listen
As a manager, listening is a vital skill and it can be key to defusing heavily charged conflicts in the workplace. Sometimes all people need to solve a problem is to talk and listen to each other, and having a third party (in this case, you) there can help the situation to become constructive instead of a heated exchange. Make sure you listen to both sides and show your understanding of each's parties position by expressing it with your own words. This can go a long way to avoid misunderstandings, as sometimes people say one thing and don't understand how it comes across for others.
Remove Emotion From The Equation
Since you are not involved in the conflict, it's your role to prevent the situation gaining momentum and becoming an argument instead of a civilised talk. If you see that emotions are making the situation spiral out of control call for a pause, for example by offering drinks or tea, or call for individual meetings. Do not side with either side, as that will be seen as a betrayal by the losing party and will cause further problems.
Find A Solution And Make Sure Everybody Agrees
Sometimes all you need to resolve a workplace conflict is getting the two parties involved talking to each other in a neutral setting. However, in other cases you'll need to take harder decisions, such as letting go of somebody because his or her attitude crossed the line of what is accepted on your workplace. In some other cases, such as a conflict about a promotion, you'll just need to make it clear that you are the boss and you stand by your decision, even if that means one of your employees will be unhappy and may even leave. Whatever you do, make sure you are following every legal and HR procedure in place so everything is done correctly, and never let it become a personal thing or you could be creating a brand new conflict, this time involving you as the boss and manager. The best outcome, however, involves everybody leaving the meeting feeling a winner, and that's your ultimate goal.