Every business that employs staff will naturally aim to encourage a strong team spirit and professionalism within their organisation. However, conflicts in the workplace are bound to occur from time to time. In the heat of the moment, emotions can take over and things can turn personal, which is always a risk for employers. For small and medium-sized businesses, this poses a significant challenge; the fallout and subsequent reconciliatory attempts can cause substantial disruption. Unlike in large corporate organisations, it is not always possible to move staff around.

It is possible, however, to resolve conflicts and pre-empt further incidents if you have the right workplace policies in place, as well as good management and the right degree of understanding.

If you have such issues with your employees, consider the following:-

  • Introduce communication guidelines

Consider creating guidelines for staff to abide by when communicating in the workplace. Ensure that your employees are aware of any unacceptable or counterproductive forms of communication. Be firm and ensure the guidelines are maintained consistently.

  • Consider your style of leadership

Be self-aware and consider your approach. Don’t run in with all guns blazing before assessing the impact it will have. Different people respond to different management styles – you may need to adapt yours.

  • Consider the views on each side of the conflict

Don’t be dismissive. Nobody likes to be told they are wrong, especially if they can’t tell their side of the story. Consider your employees’ different approaches to work and refrain from immediately discrediting them. Be wary of employees who never accept any blame or always take the credit.

  • Consider your employees’ emotions and show understanding

No matter how professional an employee usually behaves, conflicts typically incite emotional reactions at the expense of logic or reason. Any attempt to argue with someone in this state is unlikely to settle anything. It’s more effective to let the dust settle and communicate once the upset subsides.

  • Find the cause of the issue

It is important to fully understand the issues and get to the root of the problem – not only to resolve it, but to prevent it reoccurring. A conflict which initially appears trivial is possibly a result of pent-up frustration and the dispute could simply be a manifestation of a deeper-lying issue.

  • Start regular feedback meetings

This could allow you to identify potential issues and nip them in the bud. If you hold these meetings to discuss areas of the business which work well (or don’t), you may spot an opportunity to address them before it has the chance to spiral into conflict.

  • Assess the suitability of your employees for their roles

If an employee is regularly causing conflict and does not get on well with colleagues, it might be worthwhile to re-evaluate their role and consider if their strengths would be a better fit in another position. If not, you should ultimately consider if they are a right fit for your business.


WBW Solicitors offer an Employment Law Service to protect your business from any issues that may arise with your employees, which includes policy drafting and the provision of practical advice on handling grievances, disciplinaries or dismissals, should the need arise. The service provides peace of mind and “on tap” advice for any employment law situation.

We work with a variety of small and medium sized businesses and would love to hear from you if you would like to learn more. You can contact Kerry Curd, a Partner in the Employment Department, by telephone on 01626 202406 or by email at kerrycurd@wbw.co.uk. WBW Solicitors has offices in Newton Abbot, Exeter, Torquay, Paignton, Bovey Tracey, Launceston, Honiton, Exmouth and Sidmouth.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.