Your employees are probably your greatest asset, so it is in your interests, as an owner-manager of a small business, to keep your team happy and well-motivated. Managing conflicts within your team is key to maintaining the peace. Read our top tips for successful conflict resolution in the workplace. Grasp the nettle – early intervention in potential and breaking conflicts pays dividends in terms of avoiding unnecessary disruption, stress and waste of valuable management time. Develop a first-line quick response – make sure your managers and HR staff have the skills to facilitate early conflict resolution. Look for conflict positives – most conflicts indicate both unmet needs and better possible outcomes for all concerned if addressed clearly and positively. Avoid the common pitfalls – conflict is precipitated or worsened by looking to apportion blame, by scapegoating, by sweeping it under the carpet, or by trying to ‘prohibit’ conflict altogether. Avoid knee-jerk procedural solutions – too quick a recourse to grievance procedures, disciplinary action or formal investigations is often counter-productive and can involve more and more people in the conflict and consequently deepen positions and discord. Be cost aware – early formal mediation is the lower-cost option and avoids down-time, escalating stress, sickness-absence, lost management and HR prime-time and reduced motivation and productivity. Listen to what the underlying issues are – don’t get side-tracked by who is complaining the loudest or irrelevant arguments. Find out the real issue/s involved and concentrate on those. Don’t get out of your depth – know when the conflict is too complex and needs to be referred onto an experienced internal or external mediator. When ‘political’, go external – if conflicts have ‘political’ or highly sensitive inter-personal implications then it is safer to use external independent mediation consultants rather than for internal staff to risk becoming identified as ‘siding with’ or unduly ‘influencing’ a conflict situation. Be in line with government policy – are you aware that mediation is the method of choice recommended by the Government for the early, informal resolution of workplace conflicts? Empower your staff – above all, act positively and put the solution for the problem back where it can best be solved: through the creative thinking and constructive agreements produced by those involved in the conflict. They do not need to like each other, but they can agree to behave towards each other in a respectful and professional manner. About the author Nora Doherty and Marcelas Guyler are the authors of Essential Guide to Workplace Mediation and Conflict Resolution, published by Kogan Page, www.koganpage.com, paperback, 208 pages, £19.95.