How to Properly De-escalate Employee Confrontation

Peyton Duplechien • 06 Apr 2022 • 2 min read

As a business owner, your attention most likely is often on external problems for your business: having enough clients to meet your quarterly goals, fighting off-market competitors, and satisfying the needs of your customer base will likely be the obstacles at the top of your mind most days. What happens, then, when your company has an internal problem?
In any job where people are working together, conflict is inevitable. While the hope is that as a business owner you’ll be able to avoid employee conflict altogether, it’s simply not possible to never have internal conflict. Knowing how to de-escalate confrontations when they happen is essential to maintaining good HR and keeping your most essential asset, your employees, happy. 
Start With What You Know
Beginning with the familiar is always helpful when it comes to dealing with sensitive situations. Any CSR expert knows that when dealing with a dissatisfied customer, there are 3 steps you must follow: 1. Acknowledge the situation, 2. Identify the problem, and 3. Own it and find the way out. When you have a dissatisfied employee, why not start in the same place? Verbally recognize that your employee is upset, then try getting to the bottom of that feeling by asking some questions:

  • What is the source of your dissatisfaction? Is it a policy? A customer? A coworker? 
  • Is there anything outside of work that may be adding to your stress or worry?

Once you have an idea of what could be causing the conflict at hand, transition your questioning into a solution-focused path:

  • What do you feel is the best solution to this issue maybe?
  • How can I as a leader help you get to this solution?

Make sure you are using your soft skills (patience, listening, and conflict resolution) while speaking to your upset employee — taking the time to be empathetic and caring in these scenarios goes a long way in making your team members feel supported in the workplace. 
Recognize Both Sides
Sometimes, the source of an employee’s dissatisfaction will be another coworker. In that instance, it’s essential that you get a full picture of the issue and then get to resolving it as quickly as possible. After all, every unaddressed conflict wastes about eight hours of company time in gossip and other unproductive activities, according to this article from SHRM. 
Before anything else, make sure that this is NOT a case of workplace discrimination/harassment. If you believe that an employee is being harassed or discriminated against, it is your duty as a manager to investigate the situation fully. 
Once you have ruled out discrimination/harassment, take the time to meet with both employees separately so that you can get a clear picture of the problem at hand. Then, meet with them together and lead them calmly through a discussion to see how they can come to common grounds.
Make Time for HR
Having time to meet with dissatisfied employees one-on-one is vital to creating a healthy workplace environment. As a busy business owner, however, this can be hard to do. Instead of letting conflict resolution fall to the wayside, reallocate other duties to businesses you trust.
VoiceNation’s business answering and virtual receptionist services. Our staff of highly trained professionals is on hand whenever you need us with top-of-the-line customer service skills to handle anything your clients may need. Let us take care of those external issues so that you can turn your attention to the team that makes what you do possible.