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Diversity is the workplace is a great thing. It helps people learn from others who come from different cultural backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and so on. Unfortunately, there are times when differences in race, age, class, and especially political viewpoints cause trouble to stir. These problems can result in toxic work environments where everyone’s productivity will ultimately suffer.

Sometimes the problem comes in the form of an employee mistreating a colleague because of these differences; other times, individuals are merely misbehaving. Because conflict and behavioral issues are bound to happen, leadership must have a fine-tuned radar for it.

Leadership must be proactive; talk to people regularly. Pay attention to anything that may feel different. And when something doesn’t quite feel right – investigate.

While the goal is to prevent issues from happening, it’s not always possible to nip them in the bud. And once you’ve spotted the problem and who is involved, you must take proper action before the situation escalates. Here’s how:

1. Manage Your Emotions

It’s natural to be angry or frustrated when you find out there’s negativity within your team. However, you cannot bring in any personal emotions, mainly if they will affect your judgment.

2. Remove Judgments and Assumptions

If the situation involves an employee who has caused trouble in the past, it’s easy to assume that it’s a repeat of the same scenario. However, nothing will get resolved if you make the wrong assumption and decide a course of action without first hearing all sides of the story.

3. Set Aside Time to Meet Privately

The key to minimizing conflict in the workplace is to deal with it as soon as the first signs of trouble show. Arrange a time to meet with the employee by sending them an email or calendar invite to speak privately.

4. Get Straight to the Point

Skip the small talk as it can only blur the message you’re about to deliver. Lead with what you know. Be empathetic and show your concern without judgment. It’s important to express to the individual that you haven’t closed your mind and are eager to hear what they have to say.

5. Wait for a Response and Listen

Patiently wait for the person to respond; you may not have all the facts. And when they do share their side of the story, listen intently while paying attention to their body language.

6. Reflect

Emotions have a way of clouding judgment. It is your job to separate the two as you think about what questions to ask to gain more clarity.

7. Discuss

The closing discussion isn’t for you to point out flaws or find holes in the individual’s defense. Rather than get involved in an argument, ensure that the employee understands the impact their behavior has had on colleagues and productivity. This is the time to be clear on expectations and to gain a verbal agreement from the employee that there will be no more of their damaging behavior in the future. Ask them what steps they will take to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

8. Arrange the Second Meeting

Schedule a time for you to meet sometime in the next week or two to discuss if the individual has taken their action steps and has been successful in avoiding any similar behavior. Ask the employee if they feel the positive impact of changing their ways.

When it comes to dealing with trouble, it’s important for leadership to understand that the best way to transform employees who are the source of conflict is to reach out to them as soon as the negativity or shift in the environment is felt.

We understand how complicated leadership can get. We’ve had over 30 years of transforming high-potential leaders who also had to learn how to take proper action with employees who were prone to conflict and bad behavior. If you struggle with removing your emotions and taking corrective action with problematic employees, I believe I can help. Let’s connect: or

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Inscape Consulting Group
Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
Office: 604.943.0800
Mobile: 604.831.4734