In a perfect world, your business would have a diverse staff of energetic go-getters, each bringing their own unique personalities and experiences to their jobs and peacefully coexisting. In my experience, reality is a bit different. Different personalities sometimes clash, which can quickly turn into a conflict that thwarts productivity and threatens the business’s overall morale. Before you know it, you’re at risk of losing key players because no one wants to work in a place filled with tension and negativity.
Especially in a small business where the staff tends to work closely together, it’s important to take action before a situation blows up beyond repair. Dr. Sharon Lewis-Bultsma, a licensed psychologist, suggests getting it out in the open early: “If you can begin talking at the early stages of feeling angry, it’s often a good way to avoid a buildup and explosion of feelings, which is often when people say things they end up regretting.”
Conflict doesn't have to be irreparable. In fact, it can open communication channels that weren’t there before. Irreparable breaks in relationships are more likely to happen when one or both parties have held their feelings in for a long time, which lets resentment build.
Here’s how you can deal with personality conflicts:
- Create a culture of acceptance. How employees deal with other employees starts with you and how you treat your staff. Never talk negatively about one staff member to another and consistently point out positive qualities in your employees.
- Document, document, document. Make your policies clear by documenting them in an employee handbook. (Related reading: "Best Practices for Reviewing Employees.") Outline steps employees should follow if they are having issues with another employee, including making you aware of the issue, mediation, etc. State that discrimination or slander will not be tolerated, whether at work or on social media sites.
- Don’t get involved. Make it known to your employees you know there is an issue and you want it solved immediately. Check back to make sure it’s resolved.
- Get involved. Schedule a time to meet with your feuding employees to see if you can help solve the issue. Do it right away so the bad feelings don’t fester. Show employees how the business can benefit when employees offer different points of view.
- Hire help. Bring in an outside mediator if necessary to show how serious you are about resolving the problem. You could also head off the problem by scheduling some conflict training sessions so employees can learn some tips for tolerance.
- Move the employee. If personalities cannot get along, it might be better to find a different position for employees so they don’t have to work so closely together. Work with the employees' strengths so both parties are satisfied.
Check out "Small-Business Owners: What Happens When You Hire the Wrong Person?" for more tips on how to handle a difficult employee.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva's free TrendCast reports.