You are supposed to be managing an office or a small business, not a nursery school, although some of the conflicts among your staff members may seem more like playground squabbles. So how do you handle such fights without putting your employees in the corner? Here are some grown-up tips on how to manage office conflicts:

Keep your ear to the ground

You would be surprised at how a small thing – a perceived snub, for example – can turn into a big thing. So pay attention to the heavy sighs and snippy emails. They could be the sign of looming problems.

Set rules to manage conflict

Many managers keep an open-door policy to encourage staffers to come to them about issues before they flame up. Career coach experts say that another way to keep conflict from getting out of control is to keep things confidential. Don’t go griping to other people about your staff – your employees will feel betrayed.

In addition, some offices have a no-gossip or no-griping policy, which means that people cannot discuss  any complaints with somebody who is unable to solve the problem. So what that means if that a staffer is unhappy with his work hours, he can only talk to his manager, and not his co-worker, about the issue. That is a way of decreasing negativity in the office.

Keep an open mind and hear people out

For example, if two employees cannot get along, talk to both of them, asking open-ended questions, and listen to them. You will get nowhere with them if you have already made up your mind on the situation  before talking to them.

Whether you talk to the employees alone or separately is up to you. The important thing is that you listen with an open mind.

Don’t lose your cool

No matter what is happening, if you start screaming, you will make things worse. You need to manage the situation, not put fuel on the fire.

Think win-win

Sure, in some cases of workplace conflict, there may be one person completely in the wrong, while the other person is totally in the right. But in most cases, both people might have good points, and may just see things differently. So you should try to find ways in which both parties are listened to, and get some sort of win out of resolving the conflict.

Give people clear responsibilities that don’t conflict with others

It is possible that you may have inadvertently contributed to office conflict by not more clearly defining people’s roles. For example, if you have two staffers who have similar roles, but you haven’t split up which projects they are supposed to work on, you could have issues if both try to work on the office’s hottest projects.

If things don’t get resolved, consider disciplinary action

For example, if you have two employees who don’t get along with each other, and they refuse to resolve their squabbles, no matter what you do, you might want to consider some sort of disciplinary action if they refuse to behave.  Or if you have one employee who refuses to get along with others, it might be time to let them go if they refuse to change.