When staff just don’t get along, it can be a manager’s worst nightmare.

In retail environments, colleagues will be working shoulder to shoulder with each other, so it can be inevitable for there to be tensions amongst the team from time to time.

But managers have to be well- equipped to know how to defuse workplace tension and find solutions to conflicts. If you don’t you leave yourself open to low team morale, a bad working environment, absences, resignations, grievances and worst of all, Employment Tribunals claims.

So what can you do?

Here are six key steps for all retail managers to consider when managing team conflict:

1. Keep communication channels open

To reduce the chances of workplace conflict becoming grievances and claims, it is useful to have regular 1:1s with employees to give them the opportunity to talk through any problems or concerns.  By carrying out employee surveys, having group discussions or having individual meetings, you can detect if there are any underlying issues and nip them in the bud before they escalate.

2. Lay down your standards

It should be clear to all members of staff what standards of behaviour are expected. This should be documented in your Employee Handbook. It’s also essential that layers of management are leading by example.

3. Proactively commence discussions

If you have noticed a workplace conflict, for example, a heated argument, low team morale or a drop in productivity, do not just ignore it! It is good practice to speak to each of the employees concerned – explore with them what is going on, how the issues arose and how they wish the conflict to be resolved.

You need to find out the root of the conflict. Is there a personality clash? Are there egos involved? Is there bad communication in the team? Have there been instances of bullying or harassment? Are they undermining each other’s work? Are people feeling like others aren’t pulling their weight? After speaking to the parties, you may need to do some of your own digging to find out more.

Once you have understood what is at the heart of the issue, you can bring them together to talk and try and resolve the conflict.

4. Use your formal procedures when necessary

If necessary, you will need to resort to your formal procedures. It is important to make sure all your HR policies and procedures are clear, robust and up to date. Your managers should be trained and feel comfortable following internal procedures and your employees should be aware of where to access these procedures.

5. Think about alternative dispute resolution

You could also consider mediation to resolve the issue. Although it is not appropriate to deal with all types of disputes, it can be useful to resolve workplace conflicts, such as discrimination, harassment, bullying or personality clashes. Contact your Ellis Whittam Employment Law Adviser for further information on how mediation can be integrated into your employer’s practices and procedures or to make use of Ellis Whittam’s mediation services.

6. Think of solutions

If the dispute and conflict between the employees is very serious and you have tried to talk to them informally and alternative dispute resolution hasn’t worked, you may need to think long and hard about what the best solution is. For example, is it possible to move one of them to another team? Could one relocate to another branch? If you are in a challenging situation like this, seek legal advice. Your Employment Law Adviser can help guide you for the best solution possible.

 

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