Here’s How Small Business Owners Can Address Differences in the Workplace

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There are so many challenges facing small business owners every day. From managing employees to making sure financial goals are met, it can be overwhelming to ensure everything is in place to take your business to the next level.

But sometimes external forces that put pressure on you and your business can feel like the most overwhelming of all, whether it be new legislation to comply with or making accommodations to better your customer service. Still, these changes are important. Adapting is essential, and can ultimately lead to a better experience for everyone involved.

The tips below are designed to help you adapt your business to a changing world. You don’t have to implement every change right away, but it’s important to be mindful of them so that you don’t fall behind.

Talk it out

coworkers talking

If your employees don’t feel like they have a safe space to address their differences of opinion, it is guaranteed to hurt morale and creates an unproductive environment. Instead of discouraging discussion, embrace it by implementing a company suggestion box, holding weekly or monthly meetings in an open forum to address concerns, and establish a policy of openness that your employees understand and feel comfortable taking advantage of. This is not to say you have to spend hours listening and implementing changes, but thoughtful and planned discourse can go a long way in preventing buildups and confusion down the line.

Highlight your strengths—and your weaknesses

coworkers talking in office setting

Every company has areas of strength and areas for improvement. If you know that your employees are unsatisfied with the company structure, hours, or any other areas of the business, make sure you accept their concerns and address them directly. Explain why or how these policies were established and the purpose behind them so that everyone has a general understanding, even if they don’t agree. Then, if you’re able, make a plan to improve these areas that includes employee feedback. When all members of the team feel seen and heard, they will be less likely to lash out.

Find where everyone belongs

There are some people who are adaptable and can be an asset no matter what their role is in a company. However, other people are very good at one particular task, and their talents can be used to better the company in that specific area. Finding out what your employees’ strengths and weaknesses are is essential to forming a strong and cohesive team. If you force employees into a box they are not meant to fit in, it will cause a disconnect and a lack of motivation among the entire team. Differences among employees is not only good, it’s essential in creating a well-balanced team that functions optimally.

Don’t be afraid of difficult communication

As addressed above, communication is critical when it comes to handling differences in the workplace, but when employees are uncomfortable having difficult discussions—ones that may involve disparities in personalities that make it even harder to converse—conflict is bound to arise. First, make sure you have a clear-cut policy for how employees can handle these topics. Many small business owners have to wear many hats, including that of HR director, and that means mediating disagreements is part of the territory. There are a number of free resources online to help you better navigate the mediation process, including how to de-escalate conflict and help both sides come to an appropriate resolution. Ultimately, it’s important that these kinds of discussions don’t get passed over or ignored. Taking appropriate action at the start to alleviate employee differences will save your business a world of trouble.

No business owner likes to admit when they’ve been wrong, or when they haven’t done enough to account for conflicts within their business structure. However, pushing people’s differences of opinion under the rug instead of embracing them will surely be a detriment to your success. Highlighting these disparities is not only a way to help everyone feel welcome and heard, it will help your day-to-day business practices run so much more smoothly.