employee management

Dear Manager,

There are discords within the company all the time, especially in our team. It affects everyone in the team but nothing is ever resolved. People are so unprofessional, they’re gossiping about each other, and there are conflicts. I certainly don’t want to continue in this conflict and so I am looking for workplace harmony. Can we do something about this? 

— Anonymous employee

 . . .

Dear Employee,

I completely understand how difficult it is to work in a toxic environment. I don’t want any of you to suffer because of the conflicts at work. You are all hard working and any distractions should not affect your performance. I’ll resolve your concerns soon! 

— Your Manager

This is the story of an anonymous employee who is frustrated with the conflict in the team. There are employees in every organization who just cannot get along. They are constantly arguing over the most minor things and being a manager, you’ve got to handle these tough situations. 

If you are a manager, you will have to spend a lot of time managing workplace conflicts. Studies show that it takes on average 30% of a manager’s time

In an article by the Conflict Resolutions Center online also states that 30-40 percent of supervisors’ and managers’ daily activities are devoted to dealing with conflict in the workplace. Now, let’s understand what is the cause of workplace conflicts or what are the reasons that employees do not get along with each other. 

Understand Why People Fight at Work

Conflicts will always be a part of the workplace, understanding why people are not getting along will bring solutions. Managers who want to manage conflict need to understand why it happens. In general, debates are ok, people will agree and disagree, discussions will be done, but having an outrageous war is not acceptable. 

Colleagues fight when the values of one clash with those of another, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour. Let’s know more specifically, what all workplace conflicts involve: 

  1. Job titles: When employees are fighting for promotion and disagree with each other because of their status. 
  2. Favoritism: Growing favoritism can bring the conflict in relationships. 
  3. Mismatched perceptions: When in meetings, each person will have a different interpretation of what a message means. 
  4. Unclear responsibilities: No idea of who will be doing which tasks can lead to arguments.
  5. Personal values: People with different backgrounds and upbringing can sometimes start conflicts when they don’t mesh up well. 
  6. Creative variations: Different creative people will have a different opinion about how projects are done. 

With all the time employees spend at work, workplace tiffs and arguments aren’t a new thing. These clashes are mainly due to a difference in their personalities, opinions, or working styles. 

If employees are giving you a tough time getting along with each other, and if it goes unaddressed, it will be difficult over time, so, I’ve got some tips (step-by-step) for you.

1. Observe the Buildup: If you are looking to solve a conflict or at least prevent one, it is directly related to monitoring it. You are a leader, you will have to take charge of the situation. 

Whatever is happening, be on the top, to defuse it at the right time. Always focus on the problem that is in between the employees and not on the people who is experiencing the difficulty. It’s the sign of leadership to recognize what’s building up and make a decision to put an end to it. 

2. Pay Attention to Both Sides: As long as you are managing, make sure to listen to both sides to resolve things before they get too concerning. Pay attention to what’s going on. When an employee is in conflict, do not turn your attention to other things. 

Give your best to improve the situation by having a clear understanding of the situation of both sides. Step in when you hear the real problem (because some problems won’t work by themselves on their own), you can discover and solve all honest issues that need to be addressed. 

3. Set Straight Rules for Everyone: It’s important to bring to their attention to show mutual respect. Anything less won’t be accepted in the workplace. When employees are at each other’s throats, it’s better you set rules straight for each one of them. Call a meeting and talk about your goals and business. Let it be a reminder for them to realize that they have been hired for a specific job and they should focus on it. 

You can also add a statement of goodwill to highlight their importance and minimize anger. When you make them feel important as a part of success, they will be valued and change their behavior in some way. 

4. Have Open Channels To Address Conflict: When the employees’ conflict, it destroys the “we” idea of a team, that is important for successful communication within the team. How do you make sure that your team is communicating positively and respecting each other? Having a proper culture and channels of communication will make a good conflict resolution technique. 

Communication tools for peer feedback or employee to manager feedback are absolutely important to build a cohesive team. The key here is to have the right communication channel to understand each others’ point of view and have transparency in the working structure of the team. 

5. Encourage Them to Work it Out on Their Own: Your employees should know that not every tough argument has to reach a manager, it is not a high school nor a kindergarten. This is a place of business and arguments are expected. Encourage them to be self-sufficient and act cordially with each other. 

If there are things that can be worked upon by yourself, push them to act like mature adults, have one-on-one meetings to talk about issues openly. Don’t set an expectation that you’ll take over the situation completely.

6. Intervene, When Necessary:If you decide to intervene, ensure that it is directly related to the root cause of the conflict. You should first consider the personalities of the involved parties. Are they conflict seekers or conflict avoiders? 

Conflict seekers are the ones who will advocate for themselves while conflict avoiders tend to value harmony above all else. As a manager, you don’t have to be involved in every conflict. You will have to make them aware of what is expected from them for professional behavior. Take actions when it is affecting the well-being of the whole team. Approach the conflict as a chance to improve how something is done or prepare them for something new.

Working Together by Working Together

Conflicts within employees are unpleasant, but it can be a pathway to something better when resolved timely. When you learn to use these approaches which are of a good manager, then no matter how things turn out, you’ll know what to do in that tough situation.