Six Tips for Managing Conflict with Restaurant Employees

In a perfect world, everyone would get along with everyone all of the time. In the busy and often stressful restaurant world, conflicts can and do occur. When tempers flare in the kitchen (and in the dining room), the right response can make all the difference. Read on for a roundup of six conflict resolution tips for restaurant managers.

1. Understand the problem before getting involved.

From internal conflicts between employees to external conflicts between employees and customers, suppliers and other parties, many different issues can arise in restaurant settings. The key to reaching mutually agreeable solutions? Understanding the cause of the tension. Whether there’s an ongoing personality issue or an acute problem has arisen, identifying and addressing the root issue can lead you to the best solution. That said, promptly addressing an issue can stop it from festering, so don’t hesitate if your involvement is necessary.

2. Hear both sides of the story.

In order to reach a fair and mutually agreeable resolution, awareness of both sides of the story is essential. But keep in mind that neutrality — especially for managers — is also critical. If team members perceive that you are “taking sides,” a situation can quickly go from bad to worse. Having a second manager present can further support objectivity.

And remember: Validating employee feelings while remaining neutral is important. Sometimes the mere act of being heard can mitigate a concern.

3. Take it “outside.”

We don’t mean literally outside. We do mean removing any conflicts from public settings. Not only is arguing in front of customers bad business, but the presence of an audience can escalate the situation — especially in today’s social media-centric society.

4. Don’t forget about the customers.

Whether customers witness an altercation between employees or are involved in the altercation themselves, take immediate steps to remedy the problem. Offer your apologies on behalf of your restaurant, explain how the situation is being handled, and move on. One of the quickest ways to divert the attention of dinners impacted by a conflict in your restaurant? Offer freebies, such as an appetizer or round of drinks.

5. Touch base later.

Just because you reach a solution in the moment doesn’t mean the issue is gone for good. Remaining vigilant about the situation and following up with the involved parties not only ensures that the situation is completely dealt with, but can also head off future problems.

If you’ve had to take punitive action, be strict with its enforcement. This not only engenders in employees an understanding of the direct relationship between poor behavior and consequences, but also creates a safer workplace for other members of your community.

6. Have a zero-tolerance policy.

Some conflicts are of a more serious nature than others, such as racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Providing clear guidelines regarding what behaviors are unacceptable and will not be tolerated is an effective management tool.

One last thing to keep in mind? A positive environment is a natural defense against negativity in the workplace and the conflicts which arise from it. Putting a premium on staff morale is one of the best ways to facilitate accord in your restaurant.

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