Often when people complain about their jobs, it’s usually the environment they work in. Or rather, it’s the people they work with. Unfortunately, when someone accepts a job, they don’t get to choose their co-workers.
This leaves the door wide open for personality clashes and workplace conflict. As a leader, it is your responsibility to prevent and deal with workplace conflict amongst your staff. If you don’t, it will eventually impact on team productivity, results, employee satisfaction, and your reputation. So, what are some ways to manage workplace conflict, so that little problems don’t grow into big ones?
Preventing workplace conflicts starts with hiring the right people. As you interview candidates, keep an eye out for clues in what they say. For example, “I have high standards and sometimes get frustrated with others if they don’t meet those standards”. This often translates to, “In my last job, I thought my coworkers were idiots, and we often fell out.”
Healthy vs destructive conflict
There are two very different types of conflict—healthy and destructive. We can define healthy conflict as a constructive debate, where it is okay to speak up, disagree and challenge others. Conversely, destructive conflict is when people get personal, this impedes effectiveness and has a negative impact on productivity, innovation, and results.
Look for signs
Keep an eye out for the little signs that conflict is brewing. You can do this through one-on-one meetings and team meetings. Ask the right questions but listen carefully to their answers. Most employees don‘t want to tattle on their co-workers or come across as complainers. But you might pick up on subtle clues of unhealthy conflict. Point out your observation and ask them why.
Learn a conflict resolution method
The most important thing you can do, to prevent and deal with workplace conflict, is learn a conflict resolution method. Learning a conflict resolution method, through a good course or book, will give you the tools and confidence you need to confront conflict in a constructive, deliberate way. You’ll also be able to coach employees on how to handle their own conflicts.
It is important that leaders and managers don’t get caught up in the middle of the conflict. This can easily happen if you take each individual employee aside and try to mediate. Instead, you should sit down with the employees together and coach them through the conflict resolution process. By proactively dealing with and eliminating destructive conflict, before it gets out of control, you’ll ensure everyone can focus on their work and not workplace drama.