Employment Law: 5 Tips for Resolving Employee Disputes

When you run your own small or mid-sized business, it’s not likely that you have an entire HR department at your disposal to make sure any issues with your employees are taken care of. Conflict is almost inevitable in smaller-sized workplaces, where you often have people of different backgrounds and beliefs working closely together all day, everyday towards a common goal. As the leader, you might not know what you can and cannot do to make sure that problems are resolved quickly, fairly, and legally. Below we give some of our best tips on how best to resolve disputes between, or with, your employees.

  • Intervene early

As with any problem, ignoring it won’t make it go away. Taking action early allows you to get ahold of the problem and reign it in before it gets out of hand. It also shows your employees that you care about them and what they might be going through. This will help to dispel feelings of resentment that they might have towards you and what they could deem as a failure to respond to their needs.

  • Provide a safe space for informal confrontation

At work, your employees need to know that they have somewhere to go when they have a problem regardless of whether there is a HR department or not. When onboarding a new employee, make it clear where they can go for any issue. Whether it’s with you or another senior level employee, having someone your employees can turn to goes a long way in keeping the peace and maintaining a happy workforce.

  • Have a policy in place

Most business hire people as employees-at-will. An employee-at-will can be let go for a defined reason or no reason at all. Despite this, it’s important to have a code of conduct in place that will spell out what happens to your employees if they break the rules or behave inappropriately. And sometimes (though hopefully never), if the problem severely escalates, you might find that taking permanent action against an employee (e.g. termination) is the only way to make sure the rest of your workforce remains intact.

  • Provide training

Obtaining proper conflict resolution training for yourself and your employees will be invaluable down the road to not only preventing workplace conflict, but dealing with it should any problems arise. You don’t need an HR department for this either. There are plenty of consulting firms and outside companies that provide conflict resolution training to businesses around the country.

  • Consider establishing a HR department

If you are nearing the 50 employee mark, it’s a good idea to consider establishing an HR department. Aside from the fact that 50 can be a large number to manage without an HR department anyways, there are other reasons why this number makes sense to finally set one up. For example, once you hit 50 employees, more laws and requirements (like the Family Medical Leave Act) will kick in regardless of whether you have someone who knows how it will impact your employees or not. Having someone in place that understands what new changes will mean for your employees will minimize any issues associated with your new legal responsibilities and keep your workforce happy.

Where We Come In

At IGC, we understand how difficult resolving workplace conflicts can be and have the experience to help you establish effective, and legal, conflict resolution procedures. Regardless of how many employees you have, as a business owner you want to make sure that each and every one of them is happy and feels safe while at work. While dealing with problems is never fun, it’s necessary that you have set procedures in place and stick to them should a conflict arise—especially if you don’t have a HR department who can take over the problem! Please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

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Written by Integrated General Counsel

Our focus includes handling a variety of corporate matters and also includes litigation in state and federal courts. Our current practice includes providing transactional services and representing a variety of small and medium-sized companies as their outsourced general counsel.