Conflict Management: How to Address Employee Errors Without Losing Loyalty
Effective communication is the foundation of any type of leadership, especially in situations where you expect to need conflict management skills. It is essential for bringing teams together to build morale, for healthy encouragement, and to learn what they need to be successful. Maintaining the right balance can be the difference between a productive team and one that is uninspired and lacking confidence, especially when conflict inevitably arises. It is much easier to manage employee conflict when leaders have a foundation of trust.
First, here are three things to consider:
Knowing when to intervene can be hard, and it will heavily depend on the severity of the circumstances in question. Knowing when it is ok to send a quick note with a slight reminder to improve or pull back versus when a full writeup is necessary for serious disciplinary action requires discretion on the leader’s part. Leaders who choose to avoid conflict at all when it is necessary usually end up regretting it later, and the loss of respect from employees is part of what is at stake. First, if an employee knows they can get away with negative behaviors then they are more willing to be like that again, and that also dramatically affects the team who sees negative action without appropriate consequence. Taking the appropriate action when there is strong evidence of any wrongdoing is essential for not losing momentum as a leader.
Conflict resolution is rarely effective without seeing both sides of the situation. And while a leaders’ responsibility is paramount for making the decisions that must be made, having an open mind to an employees’ difference of opinion goes a long way. Walking away with a better understanding of the situation and each other can lead to the best outcome. However, if a leader imposes their way of thinking by showing indifference to an employee’s perspective, they’ve already failed at conflict resolution. At the end of the day, the leader is responsible for the final resolution to the conflict and should be prepared to follow through with that responsibility but approaching the conflict with an open mind can help maintain or even provide a foundation for trust to grow.
A leader must know his or her boundaries when interacting with employees. One slip of the tongue about something inappropriate can negatively impact a leader’s decision if they need to correct an employee’s behavior later. While building a mutually respectful relationship with employees is important, leaders should always maintain professionalism, but not so much that they become obtuse to an enjoyable and fun environment. Always be aware of the responsibility your position holds, and never act in a way that compromises the integrity of your role. You don’t have to become an emotionless, disengaged stone when you become a leader, but you do need to set clear boundaries on your own behavior if you want your employees to respect your critiques of theirs.
Schedule One-on-One Meetings
One-on-one meetings are great for empowering employees. The meetings should be scheduled monthly; however, impromptu one-on-one meetings are also effective if time is limited for the business owner. Every employee needs to feel valued, and the meetings are all about the employee. Have at least five questions prepared. Other than that, it’s an employees’ moment to speak about the things that are important to them and for the leader to learn.
Examples of questions to ask an employee include:
- Are you having any issues that are preventing you from accomplishing your responsibilities?
- Do you need any support from other team members?
- Is there anything specific that you need from leadership?
- Are you on target to complete your projects or work assignments?
- What type of training is needed for your further development?
At the conclusion, provide an opportunity for the employee to discuss any concerns they have, and allow them to speak freely, without judgment. Also, let them discuss their lives outside of work as is appropriate without sacrificing the business need. This is a key element in building trust because if an employee has a crisis and does not feel comfortable discussing it with their leader, it can create a lot of future opportunities for conflict. While it isn’t your role to solve your employees’ private problems, if you know an employee is struggling with mental health and your company has benefits or is aware of a way to help that person privately, then you are put in a position to do some good in their lives in a way that will reinforce your work relationship positively.
Use Core Principles During Corrective Action
Passive-aggressive behavior, domineering, and bullying are tactics that never bring positive long-term outcomes. It takes a servant leadership approach, which requires the leader to understand that their role isn’t to be “in charge” of people, but is instead a role meant to help them accomplish their goals. It means understanding that a leader’s success isn’t driven by an ability to command, but by the individual success of those the leader is responsible for. Servant leadership ensures that corrective actions are made without causing unnecessary conflict.
Core principles of being a servant leader are:
- Active Listening
- Empathy and Compassion
- Confidence and Self-Awareness
- Positive Influence
- Empowering Mindset
As a business owner, it is vital to have the right investment strategy. Servant leadership is another way of investing in the business. By putting forth actions to achieve “profitable” outcomes, the emphasis is on the investment of the employee rather than using power to get something accomplished. The above principles need to be at the forefront before, during, and after any corrective action is taken. Domineering leaders will continue to waste time managing conflict as more and more people cycle through the team. It’s better for a business to lose a domineering leader the leader is constantly pushing competent employees through a revolving door of hiring/firing.
Boldly Make Tough Decisions
One of the toughest decisions for any leader is having to terminate an employee. Being bold enough to terminate an employee does not negate being a servant leader. On the contrary, it is at the core of making that type of tough decision. Choosing to terminate someone is not only for the best interest of the business, but it is also deciding for the best interest of the employee. If they are not a good fit for the business, it does not serve anyone well by keeping them on the payroll. Often, being terminated from a job can be a pivotal moment that someone needs to move in a direction that is more aligned for their success. Additionally, an employee who isn’t performing up to expectations can influence the rest of their team the longer they are paid for doing a bad job the same as an employee who is doing an excellent job.
A servant leader focuses on productive and favorable outcomes for their employees. Choosing persuasive conflict management methods increases loyalty while making leaders more effective. By implementing empowering conflict resolution strategies, leaders can begin to see a positive difference in their employees. If you are looking to improve your employees’ and their leaders’ performance, consider using LMS training courses to teach them more about acceptable behaviors, standards, expectations, and proper communication.