Handling internal disputes is a difficult, but inevitable part of running a business. This can be especially challenging while your team is still small, as problems can become magnified between employees. Additionally, there may not yet be systems or personnel in place to navigate these issues.
Fortunately, with the right approach, conflicts between your team members can be resolved effectively and in a way that leaves all parties feeling heard and acknowledged. Below, members of Forbes Business Council share 13 ways you can handle internal disputes while your team is still growing, as well as touch on why they’re so effective.
1. Get Everyone Face-To-Face
The biggest key is handling dispute resolution face-to-face. The personal approach diffuses everything. Talk it out, behind closed doors. If possible, I like taking the team members involved out of the office environment, maybe to coffee or lunch. A neutral place and the addition of food calms people down and lets them relax; it creates an atmosphere that helps resolve conflicts. – Benjamin Elzweig, Active Staffing Services
2. Hear Every Side Of The Argument
In the dispute process, each person should be able to clearly articulate what the issue is and how they think it should be resolved. In other words, don’t simply define the problem causing the dispute; define a solution to that problem. Once everyone has shared their input, it’s the leader’s role to make the call and decide which direction to take. – Alex Castro, ReM Score
3. Let Your Product Vision Decide
We believe that disputes can be a positive thing if they are presented professionally and without egos involved. My job as a leader is to make sure that the vision and core design pillars of the product are established clearly from the outset, and then facilitate these conversations in a professional way and make decisions as to which side aligns best with the vision of the product. – Ihar Heneralau, ICVR
4. Have A Neutral Mediator Present
Set up a time between them for a heart-to-heart talk with somebody mediating the conversation. Each side will be given an opportunity to speak their view, find common ground and come up with a possible solution that could satisfy the most views. They have to be reminded that they are there for a reason where their roles help contribute to the success of the company. – Lorenzo Escobal, Inception Automotive Inc.
5. Understand Their Needs First
Our behaviors are driven by our desire to meet our own needs. If team interactions cause feelings of anger, it is not the behavior of the other people that is at the source of the dispute, but rather our own unmet need that causes those feelings. Instead of judging someone’s behavior, we should focus instead on which of “our needs” or “their needs” is not being met and resolve that first. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5
6. Learn To Face Your Differences
The key is to learn to be open to your teammate’s point of view and understanding each other’s differences. This will help open up new ways of thinking, which can lead to healthy team performance. It’s all about how to transform a problem into an enthusiasm for facing new challenges. After all, business is all about “people intelligence,” and leadership is about anticipating the unexpected. – Abigail Aboitiz, Advanced Remote Monitoring / ARM LLC
7. Listen Carefully And Act Accordingly
My personal experiences might sound all-too-familiar, but they are tried and tested. First and foremost, the door for seeking a resolution should always be kept wide open. Listen to the differing parties to know about the stakes involved and arrive at a solution by weighing in the possible options in the most impartial way. This often paves the way for a permanent resolution. – Beth Worthy, GMR Transcription Services, Inc
8. Address Issues Head-On, As Early As Possible
CEOs often have to referee employee conflicts. The best way to handle disputes is to make your team understand that you all have a common goal. Startups in their early stages are extremely volatile and it’s important to know that small mistakes early on could seal your company’s fate. Nip issues as early as you can even when these might be difficult conversations and get to the root quickly. – Dimitri Akhrin, Bank Associates Merchant Services (BAMS)
9. Evaluate The Situation Objectively
Disagreements and disputes are bound to happen in passionate teams that are growing. As a leader, first take deep breaths, listen and empathize with each member. Focus on their strengths while resolving their issues. It’s also important to remind the two of the higher common goal they share—which is to grow the company. This will keep the discussion in alignment and more specific. – Neha Kesarwani, Vertoe
10. Stay Impartial
By nature, we will always have different relationships with different people. When it comes to work, it is always best to stay impartial, especially with a small team. People may not always like what you say but if you are fair and impartial, they will always respect you for it. Work isn’t a high school popularity contest; leave favoritism at the door and do what is fair and best for the team. – Robert Depalo, National Financial Network
11. Be Diplomatic, But Direct
Generally speaking, leaders will stand out within small teams. So encourage those leaders to be diplomatic! Of course, communicate with them directly, too—but command respect in such a way that your team understands that what you say is what goes. Also, remember the age-old rule: Praise in public, discipline in private. – Jeff J Hunter, BrandedMedia.io
12. Reflect Before Reacting
Remember to stop, take a deep breath and reflect before reacting, as it is easy to lose balance when things get heated. Maintain the privacy of the people—especially when teams are small, as such news spreads quickly to the whole organization. Find a resolution and have it addressed rather than have it linger and create a hostile work environment. – Manju Mohan, Ionixx Technologies Inc.
13. Establish A Conflict Management Process
Managing conflict is all about the process. The process will define how the outcome is perceived and remembered. People can walk away with their desired outcome and bad feelings, or they can walk away without their desired outcome and positive feelings. It’s important for everyone to feel their side was taken into consideration. A critical role for the leader is to promote empathy in the process. – Jose Ruiz, Alder Koten