4 Steps to Defuse Conflict on Your Startup Team

November 11, 2014

10:00 am

When you’re running a startup, there are lots of things on your plate. One of the elements of running your own startup is managing your employees. With a new team, conflicts caused by clashing personalities and confusing goals can easily arise and negatively affect your productivity. As the team manager, you can reduce conflict with the following tips.

1. Set Ground Rules

First and foremost, it’s inevitable that a conflict will arise between employees at one time or another. Start by laying out ground rules for what to do if there is an argument. Should team members try to settle it themselves, or should they go to you immediately? In what manner should they notify you of a conflict?

When it comes time to sit down and discuss the argument, you also need a system in place for how to resolve issues. For example, be clear that each person should use respectful language and refrain from interrupting each other.

Know what ground rules you’ll put in place, and be sure your employees are clear on what these rules are too.

2. Don’t Take Sides

Conflict Resolution

Be Like a Chess Player

Image via Flickr by Cristian V.

When a conflict arises between two or more team members, there’s perhaps nothing worse than the team leader taking sides before listening to what each person has to say. This can create the appearance of favoritism and fuel the tension within your team. As the mediator, you need to be able to set your emotions aside and look at the situation calmly and objectively so that your own emotions don’t get in the way and cloud your judgment.

If you’re having a tough time mediating the conflict with a level head, consider having another team member come in to look at the situation objectively. This is especially useful if you’re part of the disagreement.

3. Give Everyone a Voice

Before making a decision, be sure that you’ve listened to both sides of the argument. Make sure you’re letting each person speak, and that you’re not relying on word-of-mouth to get the other person’s opinion. Also be sure you’re approaching these meetings calmly. This will help you better understand the message your team member is trying to convey, rather than letting your emotions affect your perception.

If the conflict is causing tension within the entire group, have other team members who aren’t at the center of the conflict give their ideas and opinions.

4. Be Ready to Compromise

Once you’ve heard both sides of the conflict, you may decide that one person is right and the other is flat-out wrong. But when they both have valid points, you’ll need to find a piece of common ground and consider what you can do to compromise.

Since you’ll likely be head of the team for a long time, it’s worth looking into conflict resolution programs that can give you in-depth knowledge and experience on how to resolve conflict. This skill will definitely come in handy as you manage your startup team, while benefiting you in other areas of life too.

Up until this point, how has your team managed conflict?


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Hailey is a recent graduate with a degree in Journalism. Now that she isn't face first in books she is trying to travel as much as she can. She writes in her free time between fixing up her new house and teaching people how to live a longer, healthier life.