There are a number of different methods you can use to handle an employee dispute, and the best procedures often depend on the specific nature of a particular dispute. Some general guidelines, however, can be helpful regardless of specific issues. You should listen to your employees and be attentive, even if you do not agree with them; you should be discreet when appropriate; and you should promote fairness in any decision you make. It is also important to ensure that any action you take to resolve an employee dispute does not aggravate the issue or open you up to legal consequences.
Conflict and employee dispute is an inevitable aspect of any business with multiple employees, as people naturally tend to have differences over time. The way in which you handle these disputes, however, can have a tremendous impact on the overall environment of your workplace. You should be sure to approach each situation as a unique instance of tension or dispute, unless it is legitimately part of a larger problem.
One of the most important things you can do in dealing with an employee dispute is to listen to your employees and understand what they are saying to you. This means you need to remain impartial, and you need to listen and reflect what you hear back to the employee. Even if you disagree with what is being said, you should take notes and indicate that you are hearing what the employee is saying. You can always make a decision that your employees disagree with, but you should still indicate that you listened to them and understood the situation.
Discretion is often an important part of dealing with an employee dispute. As you are listening to each side of an issue, you should talk to each employee individually and then bring them together to discuss the overall issue. This allows each person to feel that he or she has had a fair chance to explain his or her side of a situation. You should also understand when a situation calls for action on your part, and when it can be resolved by the employees themselves working it out; take action when it is necessary.
Ultimately, you want to ensure that any decision or action you take to end an employee dispute is fair and does not violate any laws or company policies. Treating your employees fairly does not necessarily mean treating them the same; employees often recognize this and you need to understand how to treat your employees to show fairness in your actions. If you treat an employee of ten years with a solid professional record the same way you treat a newly hired employee who has numerous complaints against him or her, then you may end up creating more problems. You should be aware of laws and company policies dealing with how you handle an employee dispute, however, to ensure you do not demonstrate bias in a way that may be perceived as abusive or contribute to a hostile work environment.