Gartner identified employee conflict resolution as a must-have skill for managers in 2024. Their research highlights that “Managers who manage, rather than silence, interpersonal conflict among employees will have an outsize positive impact on their organizations.”
And while these interpersonal skills can be developed by managers through training and practice, an employee conflict policy plays a critical role too.
What is an Employee Conflict Policy?
An employee conflict policy is a set of guidelines and procedures designed to address and resolve conflicts that arise amongst its workforce. It creates and documents a framework for managing employee conflicts, ranging from disagreements about the distribution of work through to more challenging issues, like addressing some microaggressions.
It is seen as a key tool in a psychologically safe workplace.
It’s also important to recognize what it isn’t: it isn’t an appropriate mechanism to ‘resolve’ harassment or discrimination. There should be separate policies and complaint procedures in place to deal with this more serious misconduct – and employees who have experienced harassment or discrimination should not be encouraged to ‘resolve’ their complaints directly with the other party.
How can an Employee Conflict Policy help?
Reduced Employee Turnover and Improved Morale
Interpersonal issues can and do lead to employee churn. Companies that publish and follow employee conflict policies show that they are committed to employee well-being and satisfaction, fairness, transparency, and inclusion.
Helpfully, these policies can also encourage employees to speak up earlier. This facilitates early intervention and resolution which, in turn, can improve morale and create a more positive workplace atmosphere.
To be frank, many individuals aren’t well-equipped to handle interpersonal conflict. It’s a skill – and it’s not something we’re all inherently good at.
Practising resolving conflicts at work, using the employee conflict policy as a framework, helps your employees to develop highly valuable conflict resolution skills.
What To Include in an Employee Conflict Policy
It’s important to remember that legal documents are most effective when they’re developed and used as business documents. What this means is that they should be tailored to fit the company they’re being developed for.
That said, broadly speaking, employee conflict policies may include the following clauses:
- The definition of conflict, including common examples.
- Reporting mechanisms and channels, including information about the appropriate roles to report conflict to.
- Confidentiality provisions, if any.
- No retaliation clauses, highlighting that employees who report conflict will not be retaliated against.
- Conflict resolution procedures.
- Communication expectations, including acceptable and unacceptable language and demeanour.
- Feedback provisions, detailing how employees can submit feedback about how they feel their conflict was handled.
- You may also wish to offer conflict resolution training to employees and managers.
The Importance of Consulting with Legal Counsel
As we outlined above, there is a risk that discrimination and/or harassment could be inappropriately managed through an employee conflict framework. It’s crucial that legal counsel is consulted to draft the document in such a way that makes it clear which conflicts can and should be resolved through these processes, and which should be formally investigated.
Additionally, your legal counsel will be well-placed to outline how and when managers and team members should document conversations and communications surrounding employee conflicts. These documents are critical in the event of any future claims relating to harassment, discrimination and/or a hostile work environment.
If you want to discuss creating an employee conflict policy at your company, reach out. Our employment attorneys are available to help.
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