There’s no doubt that one of the most difficult parts of running a company is dealing with staff

Whether you have a small team or a complex workforce, managing the complexities of human nature can be a tricky business, especially when there are personality clashes or difficult characters to deal with. The following tips will help you to keep explosive encounters to a minimum.

Keep calm If situations start to turn difficult between staff, whether due to a personality clash, work pressure or a simple mistake, try to keep everyone calm. And stay calm yourself. A quiet low voice will be more effective at bringing tempers down than any amount of shouting, which can have the opposite effect by exacerbating the situation.

The sooner the better If you or a member of your team has noticed a situation arising, deal with it as soon as you become aware. Nip it in the bud quickly and effectively. Ignoring a situation allows it to fester, take root and grow. You want to ensure it is sorted out so that its effect on the business can be minimised.

Prioritise privacy If you do have to discuss problematic behaviour with a member of your staff, always do it in a private, confidential space where both of you can talk freely. Never ever deal with people in front of their colleagues. Dirty linen should never be washed in public.

Respect No matter how tricky the situation, ensure you treat everyone with equal respect. Your personal view of a problematic individual is unimportant – you have to deal with all your stain exactly the same way. They deserve your respect, and you can expect respect from them too. This is a cornerstone of running a successful workplace.

Don’t assume Jumping to conclusions doesn’t help anyone. You must avoid making any assumptions and keep an open mind as to why conflicts have arisen. Ask open-ended questions and encourage the person concerned to talk — then listen carefully. Really hear what you are being told. But remember to switch on your radar too – watch a person’s actions, their body language, their behaviour. If someone has a bad attitude that is having a ripple effect, you need to know why.

Take your time Sorting out problems with people is not a quick 10-minute fix. You need to be considerate in giving them time and space, and for you to be able to really understand the underlying factors.

Set the tone Ultimately it is you, the manager within a team or company, who will set the tone through leading by example. You should behave in the same way to your team as you would expect them to behave towards you. Expectations and standards should be clearly stated and also the consequences of not meeting these should be understood by everyone involved, whether that is inter-team behaviour, manners or production output. It is crucial for a manager to have a consistent approach with all staff, never favouring one over another. And don’t forget to be honest with everyone. Transparency means that issues don’t end up hidden in corners.

Pay attention And finally, don’t ignore your staff. Say good morning, or good night. Ask them how their weekend was, how their children are getting on, what they enjoy doing after work. Treat them as the rounded people that they are. Too many managers don’t interact with their staff beyond the company’s product or service delivery. By getting to know who they all are as individuals, you’ll be able to keep workplace fireworks to a minimum.

Erica Wolfe-Murray is a leading business growth and innovation expert. Her book, Simple Tips, Smart Ideas: Build a Bigger, Better Business is available now, and her podcast, Simple Tips, Smart Ideas, is available on all platforms.