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How to deal with workplace disputes

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In fact, a recent study found that businesses spent roughly three hours a week dealing with conflict! With that in mind, here are six key ways of dealing with workplace disputes and increasing productivity in your workplace.

Be active, not passive

Many new managers are afraid of disputes. They will either be wilfully blind and ignore it, or hide in their offices hoping it will go away. Unfortunately, even the most minor tensions can result in major disputes and legal battles if not addressed quickly.

It is up to managers to actively look for disputes and potential conflicts and tackle them head-on. This will reduce many areas of dispute from even appearing or, at worst, minimise the impact of conflict on your workplace.

Set clear boundaries

Having written out and set procedures is extremely beneficial to dispute prevention and resolution. For example, a detailed job description for your employees will increase accountability and prevent conflict over unfinished or duplicate tasks; a defined chain of command will prevent disputes over authority, power and ego.


Before you invite the parties involved for a meeting, be sure you are well prepared. Find a private space, turn off your electronics and know what issues you want to discuss. It is also beneficial to have all relevant paperwork to the issue, which may include: pay slips, bank statements and email correspondence. When you are ready, invite the parties involved into the private space and make them feel comfortable ask them how theyre doing, ask if they need a water, etc.

Read more about conflict in the workplace:


Listening is important. For the first portion of the meeting, let the parties involved talk openly without input of your own opinion. Sometimes those in dispute just need to vocalise their problems. In either case, letting your staff openly talk to you, will help you understand the full extend of the problem and may reveal any underlying issues or tensions that can be easily addressed.

It is important that you maintain eye contact, ask clarifying questions and show you are genuinely listening and want to help them.


When you are discussing the dispute and (possibly) giving advice, make sure to be specific rather than general. For instance, cite specific instances and give examples of model behaviour rather than giving vague dos and donts.

Furthermore, make sure neither party is feeling that they are being targeted. You should make them feel comfortable and clarify that they are here to reach a mutual agreement. This involves using I” and we pronouns rather than you or him .

When a mutual solution is reached, clearly articulate it to all parties and make sure that all parties fully understand and agree to move forward.

Subsequent measures

Generally, it is best to resolve a workplace dispute informally. However, if things do get out of hand, it is a good idea to seek some legal advice. Possible further measures can include professional mediation or even arbitration.

Monique Goodyer works as a marketing specialist at  Monaco Compensation Lawyers.

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