Feel the Love: How to Handle Workplace Conflict Like an Expert
In any job, there are times when you need to learn how to manage conflict. Specifically in restaurant and hotel entry-level positions where tensions can run high due to the need to meet customer satisfaction, knowing how to diffuse a heavy situation comes in handy almost every day. Ever had a demanding customer approach you aggressively? What about a colleague who just won’t get off your back?
Instead of getting hot and heavy with your opponent, learn how to evaluate the situation and come out of it looking better then you did going in. Julienne Robins – an employee at a Pickle Barrel location in downtown Toronto – advises to “skip conflict when you can, but when it is unavoidable, you need to know how to do battle…and how not to.” Ever been in a sticky situation? Well then, read on.
Managing a tough situation
To manage conflict effectively, you must know how to please people. Better yet, “skip the conflict altogether, if you can,” says Julienne. To avoid conflict, it is essential in the hotel and restaurant industry to always know that the customer is right and that you as an employee should always aim to please the client, no matter how outlandish of a request they make. If you integrate this into your everyday interactions, you will probably run into very little problems. However, if at some point you need to resolve a situation smoothly, you need to evaluate your options.
“Take a step back, think about the situation, and try to find a compromise,” says Michael Terebij, a downtown Toronto Delta Hotel employee. You need to know what angle is best to approach the situation from; as a general rule, do everything you can to meet the requests of the customer. If a person is angry, it is best to speak as calmly as possible, and agree with everything they say. Apologize and remediate the situation ASAP.
Conflicts between coworkers should not arise, as you are trying to minimize such occurrences in your day-to-day work. If it does happen that you have a disagreement with someone you work with, apply the same tactics - be respectful of the individual, but do not let yourself be pushed over. Basically, to resolve a problem, “respect, listen and compromise,” says Julienne.
As a general rule for all conflicts, listen to the problem in full, agree with the customer completely, and resolve the problem immediately.
To speak or not to speak?
It is best not to get involved in anyone else’s problems, although sometimes this may be necessary. If you see a coworker trying to deal with a dissatisfied customer, and they are a new inexperienced employee or are obviously becoming frustrated (angry or otherwise upset), you might need to step in. Use the above-mentioned tactics, and let your coworker off the hook. Don’t get involved unless it is absolutely necessary for both party’s happiness and the quick resolution of the conflict. Don’t let either side get too angry or otherwise distressed – an angry customer is not good for business, and a crying employee is never a pretty sight for people coming into the hotel or restaurant. If you often step in and demonstrate proficiency at resolving disagreements, you might become the workplace guru!
To really put it in perspective, let’s break it down. Here are the steps to resolving conflict effectively, and with as little casualties as possible:
When a problem specifically pertains to you:
- Listen to the person presenting the problem
- Agree with their point of view
- Speak in a respectful tone, and be courteous
- Immediately remediate the problem
- Let the customer (or whoever else) know that the problem has been resolved, and thank them for notifying you of it – establish trust by letting them know they can rely on you in a situation, and that the problem will not happen again
When someone else is having a disagreement:
- Listen to the problem from a distance to learn what it is about
- If any of the people involved are becoming angry or distressed, step in and ask politely if you can help
- Apply the steps above (when a problem specifically pertains to you), and liberate the employee previously involved with the customer
- Check in on the other employee at a later time, letting them know how you handled the situation and what the outcome was – this will ease their mind about their own involvement and teach them future tactics of conflict resolution.
Conflict in the workplace is a tricky situation, but with practice and a knack for human psychology, you will be able to walk away smiling. It may be difficult at first to agree with taking the blame for something you believe is not your fault, but eventually, you will see rewards in terms of a smoother day with less – and more effectively handled - confrontations.