When tensions rise between coworkers, the environment is uncomfortable for everyone. If you have a small business, the situation can be made even more difficult because of the close proximity and frequency in which employees must interact. While some problems between staff members may resolve themselves, it might be necessary at times for you to step in and guide the process to a peaceful resolution. Here are a few suggestions for how to approach a conflict between coworkers to achieve the best outcome for everyone involved.

Ask the employees involved to meet with you to discuss the situation. Let each participant describe what is bothering them and listen openly to their complaints. Be aware of any bias you may have toward a particular employee that could influence how objectively you assess their version of events.

Don’t let yourself get caught up in any drama that plays out. Your job is to remain calm, unemotional and be the voice of reason. Expect staff to act professionally. Don’t tolerate gossip, rumors or name calling.

Know what to do if an employee is especially hostile or is making threatening remarks. Have a plan in place in the event of an emergency. Notify police if you are concerned that a disgruntled employee could turn violent.

Be prepared to hear that something you are doing, or not doing, as the boss is part of the problem. It may be difficult, but don’t get defensive. Be willing to listen to what is said and don’t punish an employee for bringing an issue out in the open.

Ask for suggestions on how to resolve the conflict. What role are the employees willing to take as part of the solution? If an immediate remedy isn’t available, don’t feel pressured to come up with one. Take some time to think about how to best handle the situation.

Decide on a clear course of action. State what will be done to correct the problem and follow up with staff to make sure they are implementing whatever action is required. If the issue is not getting resolved, find out why.

Think about how to head off similar conflicts in the future. Was a lack of communication the problem? A misunderstanding about roles or responsibilities? If you don’t already have regular meetings to keep staff informed and working like a team, consider how you can accomplish this.

Look at the big picture. Is there something positive to be gained by this experience? Can this be a growth opportunity between the coworkers involved or for your staff as a whole?

Dealing with conflicts between coworkers is never something a manager looks forward to. But unresolved issues can fester and affect your company’s productivity, morale and overall retention. By letting your staff know that you want to address their concerns – and will be fair in your assessment of a problem – you’ll already be starting from a position of harmony.

Susan Bryant is a writer and editor who enjoys working on diverse subject matter and collaborating on interesting projects. She can be contacted at susanbryant7@gmail.com.