How to Manage and Resolve Employee Conflict at Work

Nobody likes dealing with conflict in the workplace, we spend a large portion of our time in the office with our colleagues and as an employer, there are certain obligations and employment laws you must follow to manage and resolve any complaints, issues or conflicts that arise.

Having a solid understanding of employment law in New Zealand can guide the way you handle employee conflict or complaints, so it’s important you brush up on your knowledge or consult a qualified employment lawyer for advice.

Here are five tips to help you manage and resolve conflict in your workplace.

1. Take the time to understand the situation

Whether you’re involved directly or not, as a manager it’s important that you take the time to fully understand the situation to determine what could be causing the conflict or which led to the complaint. This would mean talking to all parties involved, both separately and together when appropriate, to gather their insights on the issues.

A good place to start is by reviewing any internal policies your organisation has in place, as you must follow these policies and procedures along with statutory obligations enforced by employment laws in New Zealand.

2. Document any incidents or issues as they arise

It’s important to keep detailed records for any employment issues that arise – whether this is retaining emails, and complaints, or ensuring you are taking accurate notes during meetings and conversations.

Following best practice employment laws and HR processes, such as adequate notetaking and documentation (and ensuring this information is stored safely) could help you resolve the issue as you will be able to piece together a full picture of what’s causing the problem, or it could protect your business if the incident is taken further.

3. Encourage open discussion between employees and management

Having clear and transparent lines of communication is important for any business – you want your employees to know who they can talk to should they have any issues, and to feel comfortable doing so.

Poor communication and misunderstandings can be the cause of many workplace conflicts, ensuring there are opportunities for your employees to have open discussions in a safe space is vital when working towards a resolution. It can give those involved a better understanding of each other and solutions can be discussed so that the same issues don’t arise in the future.

4. Create actionable solutions

Once you have a good understanding of the conflict and there are clear lines of communication, it’s time to create actionable solutions.

You want all parties involved to decide and agree upon the resolution – work with them to find common ground and outline possible solutions. Create a plan of action that they can all follow and commit to. Ensure you have this agreement in writing.

Make sure you schedule time to follow up with the employees – this can be a good opportunity to make sure everyone is still happy with the resolution and there are no additional issues.

5. When to seek outside support?  

There are situations when you might need external support to help with workplace conflict, this could be because you’re unable to resolve disputes between employees or when the conflict is between an employee and management.

If you find yourself in a scenario like this it’s your responsibility to consult an employment lawyer or HR professional as they will be able to provide meditation, unbiased advice, and appropriate NZ employment law knowledge.