Running a Shop Leadership

Pit Stop: Don’t be a Casualty to Shop Conflict

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Shop leaders aren’t just managing operations. They’re most often managing people.

Conflicts among employees is one sure way to disrupt the flow of customer service. Let it simmer too long, and it could even end up hurting your shop’s revenue.

Expert author and speaker Byron Sabol is here to help with some handy advice for owners and managers to identify and squash conflict before it erupts. If it does erupt, Sabol’s got some good steps to take then, too.


Avoiding Conflicts

1: Make your communication culture well-known. Sabol says that there’s one surefire way to determine if you’ve got this down.

“They need to know the all-important question,” he says. “What do you employees say about you when you’re not around?”

If you know the answer, then you have an operation with open lines of communication. If you don’t, then it might be time to work on your relationships with staff.


2: Get at the root problem. If your shop has that open communication culture, then it shouldn’t be tough to know what’s really bothering employees that are in dispute. Many times, it has nothing to do with what’s going on at work.

“Many people don't talk about it because what they’re going through is not something they brag about,” Sabol says. “They may mention it to one or two people, but they bring that tension to work.”


3. Reinforce team values. Is the shop really a place to air personal grievances? In certain situations, yes. When a staffer’s home life is affecting his or her performance, it’s helpful to be a strong listener and mentor. After all, you’re all in it together.

Make sure you let employees know that by helping one another, they’re helping themselves thrive in their own work.

“We all work on the same team,” Sabol says. “And the work that we do affects everybody here.”


When Conflict Erupts

1: Meet with the employees separately. Make sure you’re giving them ample time to tell you what’s on their minds. Sabol says that, sometimes, employees just need to vent.

“Managers need to listen to understand each person’s concerns,” he says. “They need to allow the employee ample opportunity to explain his or her views.”

That’s also a great way to get at the heart of a problem and work toward a solution.


2: Let them work it out. 

“Before the manager or owner gets too involved, I would suggest they define the problem, listen to them, understand the facts, clarify them and let them work it out among themselves,” Sabol says.

Owners and managers can be guides to facilitate a solution among the conflicted employees. That empowers those involved to be more thoughtful about their approach.


3: If that doesn’t work, take additional steps. Of course, disputing employees won’t always want to just work it out. Sabol says that he’s used one of a couple tactics. 

One is a little peer pressure. Find another employee, with whom you have a good rapport, and ask them to urge those in conflict toward a solution. Again, emphasize the team aspect in the shop and how everyone’s actions affect overall performance.

“Sometimes they want to hear it from somebody else,” he says. “They may want to hear it from somebody other than the owner or the business manager.”

If things really get out of hand, there are third-party mediators available. These days, you can even schedule a professional through an online service.

After things seem to settle down, Sabol says that it’s always prudent to follow up and make sure relations are back on a smooth track.

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