How to Mediate Employee Disputes

It’s easy to lead a team when things are going well, but how you lead when times are tough is what really defines you as a manager. A great small business leader knows when and how to handle employee conflicts.
If you’re new to managing your own staff, you may be daunted by the prospect of having to step in and resolve a dispute between employees. Don’t be! Even if you’re not a mediator by nature, these tips will help you approach conflicts in a productive way that ensures a speedy and fair resolution for everyone.

Tip 1: Know When to Get Involved

The majority of conflicts can be worked out between the individuals involved, without outside assistance. In most cases, you probably don’t need to step in unless an employee requests your help or the dispute is affecting business operations.

Tip 2: Intervene Promptly

When the time comes to step in, don’t delay. The sooner you can begin to assess the situation, the sooner you can help your employees come to a resolution, thereby minimizing any negative repercussions.

Tip 3: Remain Neutral

When it comes to mediating disputes, it’s essential that you remain neutral. Personal opinions or emotions should have no place in your decision-making process.

Tip 4: Listen to Both Sides

Make sure to hear out each person’s side of the story in private before bringing them together to reach a solution. This allows each staff member to speak his or her version of the truth without worrying about how the other person might react.

Tip 5: Get at the Real Issue

When listening to each person’s story, don’t just listen to what they say: Dig deep and discover what the real issue is behind the conflict. While the surface dispute may seem inconsequential, there’s probably a deeper conflict behind it. You won’t be able to resolve the matter until you figure out what that deeper conflict is.

Tip 6: Reach a Concrete Resolution

The worst thing you can do as a mediator is leave a dispute unresolved. Make sure that once you’ve talked through the issues and made a decision on how to proceed, everyone knows what their takeaways are and what’s expected of them next. Otherwise, there won’t be a clear resolution, and the conflict will continue to fester.

The Bottom Line

Disputes are bound to arise between employees, but if you get involved when needed, remain neutral, listen to both sides of the story, and implement a fair resolution based on the actual issue at hand, you’ll be able to turn negative situations into positive learning experiences for both you and your staff members.