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How to Manage Workplace Conflict With Ease

Think you don’t need to know about conflict management? Then we’d beg to differ…


Conflict resolution is an essential part of any catering & hospitality manager’s arsenal. From ensuring that challenging customer has the ultimate experience to smoothing over that rift in the kitchen, maintaining a welcoming ambience demands conflicts are resolved quickly and discreetly.


Whilst it’s often easy to see how conflict happens, it’s not always so simple to address. Left unresolved or badly dealt with, conflict can lead to poor customer service and a negative reputation – you don’t want that! So, here’s our whistle-stop guide to the do’s and don’ts of conflict management. Let’s take a look into a day-in-the-life of a bustling catering & hospitality company.


The Cost of Conflict


Conflict isn’t just disruptive for your hospitality team or your customers, it can have huge repercussions for the business too:

  • Management spend an average of 18 days on disciplinary cases and 14 days on grievances – CIPD via Acas
  • UK employers can anticipate paying at least £500 per employee each year in absenteeism costs due to workplace conflict – HRNews
  • While the typical legal cost of an employment tribunal claim to an employer is £3000, and £2000 for a claimant – Survey of Tribunal Applications via Acas

As you can see, ensuring you have effective and early conflict management processes in place is a must!


Effective Conflict Management


So, let’s take a quick look at some of the burning conflict management issues businesses might encounter every day.


Late to Work


Traffic jams. Sick kids. Dark winter mornings. Even the most punctual of employees are likely to be late now and then. But if Jo the housekeeper makes it a habit, her lateness can become everyone’s problem.



Don’t let persistent lateness go. If you wait until you’re fuming to confront Jo, it’s more than likely your housekeeping team is at the end of their tether too.

Think about it: Waiting for the tardy Jo to start her shift is fine once in a while. Yet, if Julie or Pat are constantly covering for a persistently late Jo, they’re likely to become frustrated and eventually, resentful. The result? Team morale is dented. At worst, by avoiding the issue, you could be fostering a culture of non-compliance and low productivity.



Deal with lateness before it happens by establishing relevant policies and procedures. Your lateness policy should outline everything from company punctuality and time-keeping standards, through to recording, reporting and possible disciplinary action.

Everyone working at your business, including Jo, needs to know about your lateness policy. Plus, you must be seen to be implementing any policies and procedures consistently and fairly. By having established policies and procedures in place, confronting Jo about her behaviour will be far easier for all concerned.


Customer complaints


Room temperature (24%). Inaccessible wifi (14%). Noise (11%). Poor cleanliness (10%). Hotel service (9%). According to recent research from one hospitality app these are the top five causes of customer complaints in hotels.

However hard a hospitality venue tries to meet expectations; customer complaints are simply a fact of daily life. How you deal with those complaints is what really matters.



Poorly manage the situation. What was simply a verbal complaint can escalate to a bad online review. As the CEO of ReviewPro points out in his HospitalityNet post: “Complaints in reviews are often less about the problem than about how staff handled the problem when it was brought to their attention.”

When you consider that 60% of 34-54 year old consumers booked accommodation through TripAdvisor, which generated approximately 730 million user reviews and opinions in 2018, those online complaints are a cause for concern.



Understand the most common complaints in your venue and why they’re arising. That way you’ll be solution-ready for any recurring issues you can’t easily rectify. It’s also essential to provide employees with guidelines and training. Make sure your team knows what to do or who to turn to when complaints arise.

Giving your employees a firm complaint-handling foundation will help your team respond to customer demands or queries with confidence – ideally culminating in a win-win for both your customers and your business.


Colleague Conflict


Now your chefs are fighting amongst themselves. Arrrgh! Warring kitchen staff can be a common comedy scenario, but in real life inter-team conflict can be a time-sapping headache. After all, when it comes to creating and serving great food, good communication is a must – in and out of that hostile kitchen!



Don’t stand for bad-mannered behaviour. Remember, most conflicts start as a simple misunderstanding. Personality clashes are bound to happen in heated environments like restaurants, but that doesn’t mean people should be allowed to treat each other disrespectfully.

A negative workplace culture is likely to lose you staff in the long run – something which will wind up costing you in both money and time as you scramble for temp cover or try to recruit new permanent members.



As a manager or supervisor your unhappy kitchen team will be looking to you to fix any inter-team conflict and restore harmony. This is where you can start with an informal resolution.

Many staff disputes can be solved by simply listening and talking to those concerned. Giving your employees the time and space to express their problems can often be enough. However, it also requires you to be confident of your own negotiating and problem-solving skills.


Employee complaints


So you recruited that slick receptionist Veronica because of her outstanding experience. She’s worked at some of London’s top venues and she’s a real asset to your establishment. Soon after, she starts chasing you. “Paul’s paid more than me for the same role,” she says. “It’s unfair! It’s discriminatory!”  She’s obviously angry. Although Veronica’s always professional, your aware pay is a highly emotive issue. You want to hide.



It’s important that you, as supervisor or line manager, maintain a cool head when confronted by the unhappy Veronica. Don’t attempt to justify the pay grade on the spot. Pay can differ for a variety of reasons from responsibilities to experience, so your response requires thought, sensitivity and facts.

Give her the brush off and your prized receptionist is likely to be plotting a move to a rival venue. Remember, words spread quickly at work, so it’s important to nip any pay-related problems in the bud.



Arrange a time to talk with Veronica. Be honest and explain clearly how things stand at your venue. Listen to her concerns. Is there anything you can do about the pay difference right now?  Is the complaint, in fact, about a deeper issue?

Remember to end the meeting with a promise to follow-up. Whilst it might well be possible to offer Veronica a pay rise, in some cases, it might not. By showing interest and concern through listening then following up, you’ve demonstrated to Veronica that this is a company that cares about its employees. Plus, because your pay scales and associated policies are clear and comprehensive, it’s easy to show Veronica exactly how she can work towards the pay rise she so desires even if it’s not available right now.


Summing Up



Don’t leave conflicts unchecked. Conflicts can have a wide-reaching effect on staff morale, productivity, employee churn, revenue and reputation to name a few. If you thought TripAdvisor was bad enough, you don’t want to find you’ve got a dozen terrible staff reviews on Glassdoor, do you?!



It’s vital to create a supportive workplace culture which empowers staff to speak up if they have a problem or deal with potential customer issues with confidence. Mitigate the chance of conflict, whether with staff or customers, by putting the relevant procedures and policies in place – not forgetting grievance procedures of course.


Need more advice about conflict management? Then contact one of our Angel consultants for an informal chat