14 tips for employers to prevent and solve value conflicts

In November, members of the Estonian Diversity Charter came together to share experiences on values and conflicts in companies and organisations. Values are the foundation of every organisation and polarisation in the society also affects companies and work relations. Employees’ skills are important, but different values can lead to verbal and physical conflicts. Participants wrote down useful tips and solutions to deal with these kinds of issues.

As a manager, it is your job to face the problem: don’t look the other way and hope that problems and conflicts resolve themselves.

“No man, no problem” is not the attitude suitable for the 21st century. Conflicts between generations or nationalities may be solved by training or counselling. Firing someone should be the last possible solution.

Bring problematic issues closer to people. Some opinions or attitudes may be formed on the basis of false information ir ignorance. For example, inviting a refugee family to share their story might influence people’s views on immigrants.

Set up a code of ethics or review it at least once a year and remind it to your employees. This document shouldn’t only be a formality, but a useful and practical tool.

Food brings people together! Cooking together and sharing food from different countries are a great reminder that we have more similarities than differences.

Info days for newcomers are a great way to introduce company values as well as the core values of the culture for these employees who have recently arrived to the country. Different perspectives and norms can be discussed and overcome by communication.

Share information to all of your employees. It is important that every person recevies information form their employer. For example at an Estonian company, a newsletter is produced in three languages – although the English newsletter is only read by 10 persons, it proved to be an important source of information for them.

Why does the person actually leave? When an employee decides to leave the company, the reasons behind it should be made clear. Workplace harrassment or bullying is not always visible, but it’s certainly a reason for leaving.

A joke for one may be hurtful to another. Jokes are fun, but we must remember that they can be used to marginalise, bully or exclude some people.

Get people together. Once a year, a company could have a meeting to discuss its core values. An Estonian company who has held these meetings for years, has much less value-conflicts since they started.

Talk to people! In an orgnanisation, it is necessary to actively communicate with people – this way, information gets to people and solutions may emerge.

Companies must always evolve, learn and contribute, because the world around us keeps changing: new tchnologies, political struggles, different world views have an effect on the workplace and a smart employer keeps up with the changes in order to adequately react to possible problems.

Involve outside experts, if necessary. As an employer, yo may have a lot of good will, but you may end up in situations, where you lack knowledge and experience in problem-solving. For example, NGOs who represent minorities may help.

Act! Companies have to understand that if they do not take the lead in forming values, others (social media, fake news) will do it for them.

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