What do I need to do first?
Conflict is always difficult to deal with and the right approach depends on the situation. Sometimes people will work things out themselves; sometimes you as the employer will need to intervene. If the issue is affecting team morale and/or work quality, then it’s generally best to deal with the issue promptly and at a low level, before it escalates further.
Lead by example when resolving conflicts. At all times, be calm, patient and show respect for others’ points of view.
If the conflict is work-related, bring the issues out to into the open, either in a group situation or with each employee individually. You can help by listening, pointing out relevant information and reframing what has been said, so that problems can be seen in a different light. Depending on the situation, you may need to make a decision on the best course of action or help the individuals, or team, to come up with the solutions themselves. In many cases, there are areas of common agreement and viable alternatives/compromises; it’s just about getting the individuals to think past their conflict.
If the conflict is personal, it is recommended that you meet individually with each person and find out the source of the conflict. In a small farming community, work and private lives often overlap and things can get complicated. Depending on the particular individuals, the issue and your confidence and skill level, the following are all options:
Learn to manage conflict by understanding potential sources of conflict and some guidelines to operate within for confronting issues.
In some cases (e.g. physical fighting), there may be little option but to take disciplinary action. Follow a fair process throughout any disciplinary proceedings, including giving each employee an opportunity to give their side of the story.
Read a step-by-step process to follow for disciplinary action and confirm you understand what following a fair process during disciplinary situations means.
Attend a course on managing conflict in the workplace. These courses normally cover common causes of conflict and conflict resolution techniques, such as listening, questioning, problem-solving and negotiating.
Get in a skilled mediator or facilitator to run a session on team building, understanding differences and working through conflict as a team. While these sessions can be expensive, they may be worth it in the long-run in terms of productivity, morale and turnover.
Consider joining the farm up to an employee assistance programme where staff can seek independent support on issues.