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Avoiding and resolving conflicts

How often are you involved in a conflict? They happen on the job and with personal and family relationships. Learning how to avoid and resolve them will help you survive and thrive.

Managers are required to get involved in resolving conflicts as part of their responsibility. Issues that demand addressing run the gamut from minor behavioral issues or infractions to serious policy violations, dishonesty and illegal acts. Some are more difficult to deal with than others and some more serious than others. A few that are sticky to address include: addressing body odor, bad breath, making advances, men adjusting themselves, inappropriate dress, inappropriate emails and texts, being late to work, poor performance, just to name a few. Consequences range from warnings, suspensions, to terminations. Damages to the company include the effects on other employees, negative impact on customers, negative impact on financials, serious impact on your company’s reputation, etc.

If you are a manager you must have the difficult conversation as part of your job. Even the best employees will occasionally have issues that need to be addressed. Issues that go unaddressed will often escalate into even bigger problems. Having the conversation early on will provide the employee the opportunity to correct the problem and make a positive change.

Some managers avoid having the difficult conversation like the plague. There’s no excuse for avoiding the responsibility. It is unacceptable for managers to delay or avoid having the conversation. To have a better outcome ensure you do the following:

Plan the conversation ahead, practice what you will say and how you will respond

Inquire of the employee and allow them to talk about the issue

Acknowledge to the employee that you have heard their side of the story

Find solutions and agree on resolution with employee.

Document the issue and your conversation with the employee as well as the outcome

Meet at a private location.

Involve Human Resources from the beginning. Have an HR representative assist and be present at meeting with employee.

A recent study by Accenture revealed that 35 percent of employees leave their jobs voluntarily because of internal politics. Problems and issues that continue unaddressed will often result in good employees becoming frustrated and seeking other employment.

A study conducted by Psychometrics in Canada showed that 32 percent of employees have to deal with conflict on a regular basis. Another study by CPP Inc. revealed that employees in the U.S. spend about 2.8 hours each week dealing with conflict. A certain amount is unavoidable but can be controlled with proper management.

Dealing with conflict requires skill and empathy but most important it requires the courage to just go ahead and do it, not put it off. Problems will not resolve themselves. They get worse when they go unaddressed. Bite the bullet and step up to the plate and do your job. Stay focused and unemotional. Look at the evidence and don’t procrastinate. It will only escalate and involve others. Avoiding and resolving conflict will improve your workplace, create a better environment for employees to perform at a higher level, and establish your role as a competent manager. It will make life better for all.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as Executive Vice President and Human Resources Director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.