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Resolving conflicts – strategies for dispute resolution between your employees

As the boss of the car wash, you sometimes have to deal with conflicts that arise among the employees. Basically, it is a question of finding the cause of the bad mood and eliminating it. Here you can find out which steps are necessary on the way to dispute resolution.

Conflicts in the team damage the company

Actually, personal animosities shouldn't interfere with everyday work, should they? You'd be wrong to think that. People who have to work with someone with whom they have a problem do a worse job than usual. The conflict depresses them, they are angry, they feel misunderstood, insulted or defeated. Accordingly, they become preoccupied with the uncomfortable situation. They appear disgruntled to their customers and colleagues, their ability to concentrate decreases. Therefore, you are not only dealing with an unpleasant working environment, but also with an increased potential for errors. Therefore, you should resolve the conflict as soon as possible to prevent worse happening.

Conflict resolution begins with introspection

In many cases (but not in all!), conflicts arise from the boss, especially in small teams. For example, if someone complains that they feel ignored or treated unfairly, you should honestly ask yourself whether you might give preferential treatment to some team members you find more likeable yourself. If this is the case, thank them for the advice and adapt your behaviour accordingly in your daily work.

The same applies if your employees lock horns over contradictory or unclear work instructions. Check when you gave which instructions. If necessary, call all employees together and correct your instructions so that clarity is restored and nobody has to argue about the assignment of tasks.

If there is a bad mood and distrust in the team, this may also be related to your behaviour. It is almost impossible to always be in a good mood and to be equally familiar with all employees. But don't let this influence your daily work and the assignment of tasks! Make an effort to be polite in everyday life, even if you are in a really bad mood. While a confidential conversation with a few pointed remarks can be fun, you should never get tempted into talking behind another employees's back with some of your trusted staff. You are the role model for your team and open the door to bullying with such behaviour! After all, you cannot demand anything from others that you yourself are not prepared to do.

There are practicable conflict management methods

If you are sure that your own behaviour did not trigger or fuel the conflicts in the team, ask the people in question to come to you. Ask them what the problem is and listen to the positions of each party in turn. Explain from the outset that everyone can express their opinion without anyone interrupting. Even if it may be difficult for you, you should refrain from putting your foot down. The problem may seem childish to you, but your employees are not children you can tell to shake hands and make up with each other. 

Work out the point of conflict with everyone involved and find a solution together. The easiest way is to have clear rules on the subject anyway. Remind all parties of them. In other cases, conflict resolution is more difficult, such as when different values are the problem. Again, it is absolutely necessary that you take all statements seriously and weight them equally. However, as soon as someone feels restricted or uncomfortable, it is important that you persuade the other party to back down, if there is the opinion that the colleague is only "making a fuss". As long as you see the discussion through to the end and involve everyone concerned or the whole team (if it concerns everyone), your solution will be taken seriously.

In a few cases, you may eventually have to resort to dismissing someone. However, this only applies if there is a person in the team with whom no one gets along well, who stirs things up, agitates and poisons the working atmosphere and who cannot be influenced at all by discussions. In such instances, however, the mood in the team and thus also the quality of the work is extremely improved by the dismissal.

Conflict resolution strategies in everyday life

If you want to incorporate a forward-looking approach to conflict resolution into your day-to-day work so that things don't escalate in the first place, you can for example schedule a team meeting once a month. At these meetings you ask your employees for feedback and ask them if they have anything on their minds. If you yourself have noticed animosities or disputes since the last meeting, you can also broach the subject yourself. This way you nip any emerging conflicts in the bud. But be aware – if you ask for feedback or suggestions for improvement, you should really take them to heart and, where appropriate, implement them! Otherwise, the offer seems like an empty gesture, and your employees feel ignored and not taken seriously.

Team coaching with conflict management exercises

If you feel that your words are not being heard by some team members, you can send the whole team to a coaching session in which they will be coached by experienced trainers on the importance of a good conflict culture, how much they all benefit from it and how they can implement it. Using exercises and role-plays, situations are experienced that need to be resolved. In this way, the members of your team learn how they can resolve their conflicts themselves and create a more pleasant working atmosphere.

Summary: By solving conflicts, you ensure satisfaction

A working day without conflicts between employees is much more pleasant for everyone than one in which there is always conflict and a bad mood. It is up to you as the boss to set an example of good behaviour and to respond to suggestions for improvement. If conflicts arise between employees, you should listen to all sides and find a solution together with the team. A dismissal is only necessary in very few cases. There are conflict prevention tools and coaching sessions that teach your team members how to deal with conflicts. Basically, it is better to act sooner than later if you want to resolve conflicts so that the problem does not escalate.