Workplace conflict can be all-consuming; like a bad song you can’t turn off. It puts employees on edge and hinders productivity. Everyone feels the effects even if they’re not directly involved in the issue. Problems don’t go away if ignored. That’s why it’s important to put processes in place to prevent conflicts and to handle them with fairness and mutual respect when they occur.
Employees may unknowingly overstep authority or conversely shirk responsibility if they are uncertain about their role. If they feel like their responsibilities are being undermined, it can cause unnecessary stress and frustration. Review job descriptions on a regular basis especially if company priorities shift frequently. Make sure roles are clear and up to date. Some additional strategies to ensure everyone is on the same page include:
- Surveying employees about their role clarity, engagement and how well conflict is being handled. The results can reveal opportunities for training or further discussion
- Incorporating conflict resolution goals into job descriptions and performance reviews. This helps reinforce its importance and reminds employees of expectations
You lose valuable time escalating issues, so encourage employees to try to work out differences directly. Whether you provide conflict resolution training or managers model effective strategies, employees should understand there’s a collective process. Develop and distribute guidelines so conflict management is seen as everyone’s obligation. If they experience conflict, they’ll have the tools to address it. By empowering employees to address conflicts and document the agreed upon resolution, it helps
- Employees develop conflict-resolutions skills
- Decrease dependence on others for resolution
- Reduce interruptions for managers
We are social creatures who crave positive interactions. Research has shown that we are happier, more productive employees when we have strong relationships and friendships at work. Company-sponsored events and outings help to foster those bonds. Beyond that, there are many other ways to support positive collaboration on a daily basis.
- Encourage your team to devote a portion of their day toward relationship building. Whether a quick coffee break or hallway chat, taking initiative on a regular basis can make a big difference in developing relationships.
- Practice active listening even if you don’t agree with their point of view. By truly hearing ideas, you’re establishing a foundation of respect. Employees are more inclined to share ideas with someone they trust. Lead by example.
- Address issues without making it personal. Emotions cloud everyone’s thinking. Collaboration quickly degrades with any aggressive, dismissive or personal exchanges. Focus on developing a solution and rely on reasoning to make a final call. Don’t forget to be willing to compromise.
If left unchecked, problematic employees can add stress and interfere with the productivity of your team. It can be enormously challenging to manage them, but never impossible. People aren’t their behaviors and behaviors can change. Whether manipulative or smug, aggressive or passive, identify behavioral patterns so you can react more effectively. Listen and don’t let your emotions creep in. If they do, take a time out to rebalance. Always remain earnestly interested and solutions oriented.
As workplaces become more diverse (age, gender, ethnicity, personality type), conflicting perspectives will grow. Diverse viewpoints have been proven to increase innovation but can also cause misunderstanding. This is where partnering with a PEO (professional employer organization) can help. As you craft a culture where employees feel safe to disagree, a PEO can identify common pitfalls, provide best practices training, clarify job responsibilities and so much more.
As one of the first PEOs in the country to be certified by the IRS* in 2017, Chicago based MidwestHR has been helping clients overcome their biggest HR challenges for over 20 years. Every business is unique, and we don’t believe companies fit into “service packages.” Unlike other PEOs, you can outsource some or all of your HR functions. Give us a call at 630-836-3000 to learn more about how we customize services to your company’s exact needs.
*The IRS does not endorse specific Certified Professional Employer Organizations. For more information, please visit www.irs.gov or our website at midwesthr.com.