Managing employee conflict is one of the most challenging duties of a leader, the situations are as varied as the people that are part of the team. Even when the same people are part of the conflict the trigger and outcomes can be very different.
Conflict should always be addressed immediately, the longer we wait to resolve it the harder it will be, and more repercussions can occur. This does not mean that we act with haste, before any action can be taken to resolve the incident, we need to know the following facts:
What is the nature of the conflict?
What motivated the conflict to arise?
Have the participants been in conflict situations in the past?
Has this conflict occurred more than once?
Does the conflict damage the image of your company?
Does the conflict involve a third party? For example, a customer, consultant, or supplier.
Once we know the facts, we can determine the best solution for all involved. Some of the actions that can be taken include, but are not limited to, the following:
Issue written warnings that the conduct displayed in the conflict is not approved and could result in suspension or termination.
Reassignment of the participants to different teams or groups if possible.
Put the instigator(s) on notice that the next occurrence can and will result in more severe consequences, including termination.
Loss of privileges afforded to all employees.
If the conflict involves a third party, you may need to consider immediate termination of the employee or reassignment where the situation cannot occur again.
Sometimes the only possible action is to terminate an employee that has been part of more than one conflict. With this action you are sending a strong message that this type of conduct is not tolerated and can result in severe consequences.
Always remember to document every action, a bully is always a bully, and can come back to haunt you legally, however, if you have all the documentation and it is signed by the participants as well as your management team there is little to fear from this kind of people.