We have been talking about relationships in the workplace this month, addressing the various components that define a “good” workplace relationship, and discussing how to deal with romantic relationships that are often bound to pop up between coworkers. Now that we have outlined a few of these relationship-related topics, another applicable and important factor that we often have to deal with at work how to manage a difficult situation. What should you do when a relationship goes south? How do you manage a disgruntled employee and prevent the situation from turning toxic and disruptive?

Mentoring and providing guidance is part of managing employees. When it comes to your attention that an employee is having a difficult time or is irritated about something, it is always best to nip it in the bud and address the situation before it gets out of hand, potentially affecting morale and productivity.

Actively Listen

One of the most powerful tools you have the ability to listen. Active listening is hard work and involves the active search for meaning. The receiver reserves judgment, weighs words, and places himself or herself in the sender’s position. The goal is to receive as much of the original meaning as possible. By actively listening and focusing on what your employee’s are trying to communicate, you don’t only fully comprehend their message and needs, but it proves to them that you genuinely care about their problems and truly want to work with them to reach a solution or compromise.

Don’t Take Things Personally

It is important to note that while emotions are valid and at times, warranted, it is important try not to take things personally, particularly if the frustration has to do with management. If an employee comes to you with an issue that has to do with you, with process, or with management in general, focus on channeling your energy into productive ways to address and rectify the situation rather than feeling irritated and resentful as a result of the conflict. You cannot control another individual’s emotions or behavior, but you can manage your own reactions and how you respond and move forward.

Engage the Other Party

Everyone has the basic desire to feel important. This need to feel important drives how people operate and see the world. The desire to feel important is different for each person. The key to successful interactions with your employees is to understand that this need is satisfied differently than yours. Particularly when your employees are upset or dissatisfied in any way, make them a part of the solution. Not only will their engagement and participation in finding a mutually beneficial situation make them feel appreciated, but encouraging their involvement in being a part of the solution can help increase morale and loyalty, in turn minimizing the risk of future conflict.

Conflict is an inevitable part of managing employees. That being said, there are ways to mitigate and manage conflict in the workplace to ensure that your relationships with your employees continue in a positive, productive, and peaceful manner. Your employees are your best resource. Having the tools in place to effectively handle workplace conflict can make the difference in having mediocre interactions with your employees and building and maintaining long-lasting, respectful, and positive workplace relationships.