Dealing with work place disputes

Two People Accusing Someone of Something

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Workplace disputes are on the rise – make sure you’re prepared and know how to handle them before they become a major issue.

New figures from MetLife UK show workplace disputes between staff are on the rise, with 47% of HR departments reporting an increase in the number of workplace disputes over the past two years.

They can happen in any office and any time, so you’ve got to be prepared.

Created a relaxed atmosphere

First and foremost, try and have an office that is open and friendly, where issues are caught before they explode.

The MetLife survey found that stress was the biggest contributory factor to workplace disputes. By removing or reducing stress levels, you lessen the chance of arguments.

Make sure everyone knows what’s acceptable

From new employees to founding members, you’ve got to have the same rules for everyone. And you need to make sure everyone is aware what’s classed as acceptable behaviour.

You shouldn’t expect everyone to walk on egg shells – after all some tension, gentle jokes and the occasional heated argument are all part of office life. But people should know where the line is and when they’ve crossed it.

A man Tapping his Papers to a Business Colleague

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Meet both sides separately

If disputes do occur, make sure to get both sides of the story. Meet the people involved separately and listen to what they have to say.

Ask for as much evidence as possible such as emails, meeting transcripts etc. Try and keep the focus on the parties involved.

Bring them together

Once you’ve had a chance to listen to both and have gone over the incidents, then you can bring them together.

You should start with just you talking, going over what you’ve heard both of them say and giving your opinion on the matter.

By offering an outsider’s point of view, you could help them come to a solution. Or you could simply discover that the whole falling out was based on a miscommunication or error.

Any questions?

At this point, open the floor up to each of the parties – one at a time. Let them ask questions but try and keep the mood calm.

If things get too heated, step in or take a break. If they end up arguing with each other, tell them to only ask questions or make statements directly to you. This allows you to filter their comments and hopefully get to the crux of the matter.

Next steps

If you can’t come to an informal resolution, you might need to seek help elsewhere. This could be through someone in HR, a union representative, or outside sources such as the Acas helpline.

Ask your staff members to write up what has been discussed, along with examples of relevant letters, emails etc. They can then make a formal complaint if necessary.

At this point, all the materials and statements will be handed over to you or another member of staff in order for a decision to be reached.

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