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This article is from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)’s website. They are an excellent resource for Canadian entrepreneurs and small businesses. If you find this article helpful, we encourage you to go check out more at bdc.ca.

5 practical tips for managing conflict in your workplace

Conflict between employees is one of the most common sources of trouble in the workplace and can lead to productivity losses, increased absenteeism and poor client service. Moreover, when it goes unresolved, constant conflict can dramatically erode the quality of the work environment to the point where employees will even want to leave the organization. Here are some tips to help entrepreneurs prevent conflict and manage it when it occurs.

1. Create clear job descriptions, processes and procedures

Your employees should know at any given time what they are supposed to be doing, what they are accountable for and who they are reporting to. Avoid grey areas by clearly defining roles and responsibilities for each position in your company and recording processes and procedures. This will help you deal objectively with disputes when they occur.

2. Identify potential areas of conflict

In today’s diverse workforce, it’s common for small and medium-sized companies to accommodate employees with different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. These differences contribute to a company’s success, but can also be among the most common sources of conflict in the workplace. Take time to learn about those differences and make sure they are respected in your workplace. This will help you prevent cultural clashes and allow you to build a diverse staff.

3. Bring all parties to the table

When conflict occurs, take the time to sit down and discuss with all the parties involved to find the best ways to find a resolution and prevent the situation from reoccurring.

Ask each person to describe his or her side of the story. This will help you find the origins of the dispute. It will also help release tension and allow people to gain a better understanding of the other party’s point of view and actions. Often, something as simple as a misinterpretation of something someone has said can be the source of animosity.

4. Don’t let things fester

Don’t be afraid to address situations head on. Conflict is often about strong, inflamed emotions. Great mediators listen to the emotions, but focus on the facts. Be fair and transparent when you give feedback and try to solve a conflict. Adopt a positive attitude to build common ground and trust between the parties and encourage them to put all their cards on the table. Understand the nature of the conflict and try to find a compromise, but make sure people are sincerely happy with the outcome. Look for win-win.

5. Promote an open culture based on trust, respect and collaboration

Don’t confuse difference of opinion with conflict. Disagreement is inevitable and healthy for your organization. Creative forms of conflict and open debates are constructive. They help identify problems and stimulate innovation. It’s your responsibility as a leader to encourage employees to share their ideas openly but act when conflict becomes destructive.

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