Workplace conflict is an issue that’s unfortunately inevitable when working with a large group of people. We outline 8 effective methods to handle it.
Employers must take into consideration the wide range of personalities that come with people in the office.
Everyone handles things differently, and when it comes to conflict in the workplace, it is important for you to set a standard for your employees to ensure all conflict is handled in a professional manner. Many employees are often unsure of how to best handle these issues when they arise because they can feel awkward and uncomfortable.
Whether you’re an employee or in a managerial position, it’s important for you to note the steps it takes to best tackle conflict in the workplace.
Here are some tips on how you and your employees can best handle workplace conflict.
Have a clear line of communication
Many work-related conflicts stem from miscommunications. Make sure employees have several modes of communication available to them and a clear point of contact. Distinguish an open-door policy with your employees so they know they can come to you with any communication issues.
Establishing that openness will ensure your employees feel comfortable coming to you, should any problems arise. When meeting with multiple employees, give them each free reign to speak what they feel. Talk together and work it out together.
Sacha Ferrandi, founder and principal of Texas Hard Money explains how he promotes open communication for his employees. “I never want any of employees to feel like they can’t come to me,” Ferrandi says. “I welcome them to come to me with any concerns and always give them my support. As a manager, you want your employees to be able to confide in you when they need it.”
Setting clear boundaries helps to maintain good productivity and social dynamics in the workplace. When professional boundaries have been clearly defined, employees know exactly what is and what is not expected of them. Without boundaries, there are no firm guidelines for workplace behavior.
Employees should have a clear outline of their job positions and daily duties. If any problems do arise, they should know exactly who to come to with any issues and what protocol to follow.
If needed, set interpersonal boundaries such as refraining from talking about sensitive topics in the workplace, like politics. Promote keeping the workplace a professional environment to best avoid any of these types of conversations from occurring. It is inevitable that sometimes these boundaries will be crossed, so have a response strategy ready.
Respect and welcome differences
Having opposing views within the workplace can be beneficial, but sometimes difficult to work past. Without welcoming the opportunity to challenge different ideas, it might leave little progression or motivation within the workplace. When it comes to workplace conflict, it’s important to not only respect each other but to listen to each other.
Don’t react in a hostile way. Instead, try to better understand each other by asking questions and learning the other person’s point of view.
Showing people respect, regardless of their point of view, will go a long way in building a culture where employees feel comfortable expressing opinions or making suggestions. Think of it as a conversation and not an argument.
Jeff Arnett, CEO of Arnett Credentials says, “you will never be able to resolve a conflict if you don’t take the time to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Find out the core of the disagreement so you can both come together to find a solution.”
Be careful about the way you use your words. Stay neutral and don’t respond to conflicts in a negative light. Nobody likes confronting conflicts, but you’ll only make it worse if you take it too personally. Though you may not get along with a person, you still need to respect them.
Don’t allow tension to grow over time
If a problem arises between conflicting employees, make the effort to solve the conflict immediately before it grows into a bigger problem. Unresolved issues not only make the environment uncomfortable, but they can affect an employee’s work performance.
Nelson Sherwin, Manager of PEOCompanies.com, shares his experience of trying to mediate office disputes; “People would come to me with some of these issues and I would naturally want to take action, but when the bigger issue is that leadership does not care to take action, my hands are tied. If I’d been in charge, that wouldn’t have been allowed, but when you’ve got the CEO discussing politics in the middle of the room … then why do we even have rules about that?”
Don’t let these types of situations fester. Support your employees and be that person to mitigate the situation.
Don’t place blame
One of the most common mistakes that happen when attempting to resolve conflict is playing the blame game. Individuals often point fingers and target the other to try to make their claim. Avoid this at all costs.
Placing blame on someone only creates more tension and heightens the conflict. Remember, this is not a fight. There is no winner. You are on a team and should act as such. Figure out what the root cause of the conflict is. Analyse what was done to get there and help individuals understand what actions need to be taken in order to solve it.
Give employees the opportunity to work it out themselves
Employees have the freedom to voice their concerns and when problems arise, they should be able to handle it on their own. A good employee knows they need to ask professional and keep any personal issues out of the workplace. Emotions tend to get in the way and make the conflict more severe than it needs to be.
If any issues do get out of hand, that’s when a manager should step in. Don’t involve yourself in the problem, rather act as a middleman to help diffuse the issue. If needed, help by providing talking points to ensure the individuals clearly express themselves and find a solution. Try your best not to allow it to grow to include others. Keep the issues private and only between those involved.
Find a solution that pleases both parties
Just like all healthy relationships, compromising is sometimes the only thing that will allow things to move forward. While most of these conversations will mostly be surrounded around the disagreements, try to find some positives. Find key takeaways from the issue and figure out how to best move forward. Collaborate on finding a solution that will be best for all individuals involved.
If the conflict is between two people, try to find similarities that can bring them together to better find a solution. As a member of a team, it is your job to be able to compromise with one another.
Put the conflict in writing
Always document any conflicts that occur. You may run into situations where the same employee is involved in multiple conflicts and may need to come up with a solution on how to handle that individual specifically.
If any situations ever escalate and put your business at risk, you will have the proper documentation you need to handle it.
Conflicts are unavoidable in the workplace. Remember the company culture you want and make sure you are doing everything you can uphold your companies’ values. Put your pride aside, remain professional and take all conflicts with a grain of salt. Resolving work conflict is possible when you have a set strategy to ensure all employees are on the same page to creating a happy workplace.
At the end of the day, conflicts will be something that every workplace will have to deal with at some point or another. Welcome and respect each other’s views and take it as a learning opportunity to better prepare yourself and your employees for any other conflicts that may arise in the future.
About the author
Corey Doane is a contributing editor for 365 business tips and Marketing Expert for Source Capital Funding. She has a B.S in Public Relations from San Jose State University and has experience in PR, marketing and communications.