It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Construction sites can be stressful places.
Between the physical and mental demands, the dangers, the noise, the constant activity, the heat, tight schedules, and other factors, even seasoned crew members can end up a little on edge from time to time. Add to that the assortment of different contractors, subcontractors, and other workers with their own areas of expertise, opinions, and priorities, and disagreements aren’t all that uncommon.
While it would be unrealistic to say that managers and supervisors can prevent job site conflicts all the time, they can take steps to resolve disputes efficiently and successfully, before things get too out of hand and without letting problems between two or more parties fester until they boil over.
Quickly settling these types of issues is important to keeping any project moving along on schedule and on budget, and to keeping everyone happy and safe. So, take a look at these tips for conflict resolution at the construction site and put them to work next time they’re needed.
How to Resolve Construction Site Conflicts
- Never ignore conflicts; even small disagreements or clashes can snowball into something worse if they go unresolved
- Separate parties for a cool-down period
- Talk to everyone involved individually first—including any witnesses—so you can get all sides of the story
- When you bring everyone together, explain that you’re all going to set emotions aside and have a rational discussion
- Give all parties involved a chance to speak uninterrupted and explain their point of view; it’s essential that everybody feels like they’ve been heard
- Take a short break from the meeting as soon as tempers start flaring up
- Figure out what’s at the root of the problem; often, it’s just a miscommunication or different interpretations of plans
- Don’t get caught up in assigning blame
- Don’t pull rank, as this tends to just leave people feeling trampled over and resentful
- Ask each person what a successful resolution to the conflict would entail
- Identify any clarify any relevant factors that are non-negotiable (like contractual obligations or things related to regulations)
- Determine a fair solution and make a plan to move forward, which ideally involves a compromise that gives everyone something they want
- Ask everybody involved if they agree that your solution and plan is acceptable, and continue working it out as needed
- Bring things to a close professionally with handshakes and apologies all around