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Fisher & Phillips LLP ATTORNEYS AT LAW Solutions at Work ®. How to Effectively Deal with Conflict in the Workplace. Presented by: Laura P. Jordan Phone: (503) 242-4262 Email:

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How to effectively deal with conflict in the workplace

Fisher & PhillipsLLP


Solutions at Work®

How to Effectively Deal with Conflict in the Workplace

Presented by:Laura P. Jordan

Phone: (503) 242-4262Email:

Atlanta • Boston • Charlotte • Chicago • Cleveland • Columbia • Dallas • Denver • Fort Lauderdale • Houston • Irvine • Kansas City • Las Vegas • Los Angeles

Louisville Memphis • New England • New Jersey • New Orleans • Orlando • Philadelphia • Phoenix • Portland • San Diego • San Francisco • Tampa • Washington, DC


  • Workplace Conflict Resolution

  • Dealing With Difficult Employees

  • Scenarios

  • Summary

Why conflict resolution
Why Conflict Resolution?


  • United States Department Of Justice, 1994

Conflict in the workplace
Conflict in the Workplace

  • Workplace Conflict

    • Can be a serious problem in the workplace

    • Will result in a loss of productive employee time

    • Could result in civil/administrative litigation

      • Costs of defense

      • Costs of an adverse determination

    • Personal liability of managers and supervisors

How to resolve conflict
How to Resolve Conflict

  • Manage

  • Identify Opportunities

  • Meet Challenges Head-On

  • Communicate

  • Pay Attention to the People

Manager s role
Manager’s Role

  • Prevention through good company culture, training and education

  • Proactive and responsive to complaints

  • All reasonable steps necessary to prevent

  • Prompt, thorough and effective investigations

  • Appropriate follow-through

Key manager responsibilities
Key Manager Responsibilities

  • Be a positive force/influence

  • Communicate Effectively

  • Uphold Performance Standards

  • Model Appropriate Workplace Conduct

  • Filter issues to determine what needs to be raised with HR or management

Key manager responsibilities1
Key Manager Responsibilities

  • Be a positive force/influence

    • You are the face of the company

    • Negative attitude/interactions reflect on the entire organization

    • Most employee disputes can be dealt with early or avoided through positive communication

Key manager responsibilities2
Key Manager Responsibilities

  • “Positive Communication” requires that you actively engage your employees.

  • It is not okay to ignore issues in the workplace.

  • How do you actively engage your employees?

Key manager responsibilities3
Key Manager Responsibilities

  • Communicate Effectively

    • Clear notice of expectations

    • Opportunity to meet standards

    • Feedback on performance

      • Performance evaluations

      • Disciplinary action

      • Positive praise where appropriate

Key manager responsibilities4
Key Manager Responsibilities

  • Uphold Company Performance Standards

    • Impose a duty on employees

    • Find a benchmark that can be used to measure performance

    • Requires more professionalism than what the law requires

Key manager responsibilities5
Key Manager Responsibilities

  • Model Appropriate Workplace Conduct

    • The manager’s conduct is the standard for employees

      • Employees will not conform to policies if manager does not conform

      • Ignoring issues undermines the policies

Key manager responsibilities6
Key Manager Responsibilities

Filter of Issues/Disputes

  • Not every workplace dispute needs to be reported to HR or senior management

  • Look at the totality of the circumstances

    • Is a protected status implicated?

    • Are factors other than one’s ability to perform a job at issue?

    • Not sure whether to involve HR?

Managing employees
Managing Employees

  • Treat Employees With Dignity And Respect

    • Find an office or conference room for privacy

    • Start with general, open-ended questions

    • Avoid questions that suggest a bias

    • Avoid editorial comments or legal conclusions

    • Any matter that is potentially significant (such as harassment, discrimination, family leave, retaliation, wage and hour or workplace safety) must be reported to HR

Managing employees1
Managing Employees

  • What to Document

    • Performance Assessments

      Both formal and informal performance evaluations should be documented

      Tie the evaluation to job-related standards

    • Performance Management/Discipline

      Give the employee specific information about performance problems and the steps to correct the problems

Identify opportunities
Identify Opportunities

  • Nip it in the bud!

  • Ears and eyes open

  • Look for the real issues

  • Beware of motives

  • Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear!

Meet challenges head on
Meet Challenges Head-On

  • What elephant?

  • Avoiding a problem is not likely to make it go away

  • More likely to grow out of control if not addressed


  • Two-way process

  • Skill

  • Clear

  • Timely

  • Effective


  • Consistent

  • Personal

  • Positive

  • Respectful

  • Motivational

Pay attention to the people
Pay Attention to the People

  • Don’t get carried away by other distractions

  • A little bit of employee relations goes a long way

  • More and more important in this economic environment

Identifying issues
Identifying Issues

  • Silence, bickering, pettiness

  • Lack of team approach

  • Complaints

  • Other symptoms

Resolving workplace issues
Resolving Workplace Issues

  • One-on-one

  • Group

  • Third party

  • Goal setting

  • Common benefits

  • Or else

Dealing with difficult employees
Dealing with Difficult Employees

  • Direct

  • Professional

  • Deal with issues

  • Avoid traps

    • Legal

    • Personal


  • Every manager has a tendency to put off those difficult conversations hoping the problem will disappear

  • Whether vulgar language, excessive gossip, inappropriate dress, personal hygiene, or performance issues, every manager will face difficult employee issues

Reality continued
Reality (continued)

  • Supervisors need to be skilled and understand what is legal

  • More than that, they need to understand what will work

    • How to begin the conversation

    • How to confront difficult employees

    • How to create an atmosphere that engages employees

    • How to discover the truth and learn what is really the cause

Reality continued1
Reality (continued)

  • Attitude problems

  • Rule breakers

  • Does not play well with others

  • An excuse for everything

  • Keeping a record

  • Intentionally difficult

Reality continued2
Reality (continued)

  • Address the facts

  • No tolerance for threats, accusations and defiance

  • Productive ways to counsel employees

  • Keep your emotions under control

  • Focus on the problem, not the person

The right approach
The Right Approach

  • We are all in this together

  • Do you want to be a part of the team?

  • Do you want to succeed?


  • Attitude problems

    • Identify the real issue

    • Motivation

    • Address as appropriate


  • Rule breakers

    • Testing?

    • Showing off?

    • Pushing the limits?

    • Leader of the group?


  • Does not play well with others

    • Source of conflict

    • Motives?


  • An excuse for everything

    • Has it worked?

    • Real issues?

    • Find a cure


  • Keeping a record

    • Always pretend you are being recorded

    • Warning bells

    • Don’t be scared

    • You’re the star!


  • Intentionally difficult

    • Agenda

    • Defense mechanism

    • Zero tolerance


  • Constant Complainer

    • Negativism

    • Setting an example

    • Subject of dissatisfaction


  • Handwriting on the Wall

    • Waiting to act

    • Correct timing

    • Decision point

Stay legal
Stay Legal

  • All actions subject to review

  • Identify attempts to mischaracterize

  • Watch for fraud

  • Watch for buzzwords

  • Create your own record

Key points to remember
Key Points to Remember

  • Manage employees

  • Deal with complaints and problems

  • Realize “perception” is as important as reality

  • Remember the goal is to prevent, resolve and avoid claims – not to “win”

How to effectively deal with conflict in the workplace

Fisher & PhillipsLLP


Solutions at Work®

Thank You!

Follow up and final questions?

Presented by:Laura P. JordanPhone: (503) 242-4262Email:

Atlanta • Boston • Charlotte • Chicago • Cleveland • Columbia • Dallas • Denver • Fort Lauderdale • Houston • Irvine • Kansas City • Las Vegas • Los Angeles

Louisville Memphis • New England • New Jersey • New Orleans • Orlando • Philadelphia • Phoenix • Portland • San Diego • San Francisco • Tampa • Washington, DC