Conflicts in the workplace are inevitable. The workplace is one of the few spaces where people from a variety of different backgrounds, places, experiences, and personalities must come together and work cohesively in an ongoing way. Of course - people can disagree about everything from working styles to communication approaches, to decision-making processes, to what type of snacks should be offered, and beyond. In other words, there are many reasons for conflicts among employees, but some of the most common ones are:
Disagreements about work tasks and expectations around workload
Personality clashes and/or differences in values
Conflicts about work hours and the division of labor
Conflicts about pay and benefits, particularly if the environment is inequitable
If we want to resolve these conflicts, we should have a clear strategy grounded in effective communication principles. But as with most conflict, prevention is key because the longer conflict is ongoing, the more it festers and expands into something bigger. The following principles can help us to resolve current conflicts and prevent future ones:
Be Open and Honest With Your Employees
It's no secret that conflict between employees is one of the big productivity killers in the workplace. Maybe it's a simple misunderstanding that quickly gets out of hand, or maybe it's a personality clash that has been simmering beneath the surface for months. Either way, conflict can be disruptive and distracting, preventing employees from being productive and happy at work. The good news is that you can help to prevent conflict by creating an environment of openness.
When employees feel comfortable coming to you with questions, concerns, or conflicts, they are more likely to do so before things escalate. As a result, you'll be able to nip potential problems in the bud, maintaining a happy and productive workplace!
Give Your Employees Chance to Voice Their Opinions
Conflict between employees is often the result of miscommunication or a lack of understanding. Whether through formal surveys and pulse checks, or regular team meetings, giving employees the opportunity to share what they think and feel can help prevent disagreements and resentment down the road. It can stave off unfavorable decisions, provide the option to vote or weigh in about the direction of things, and proactively share feedback about how things are being handled.
In addition, by giving employees a platform to share their opinions, you can gain valuable insights into how they feel about their work and the company as a whole. Ultimately, giving employees a chance to voice their opinions can help to create a more positive and productive work environment.
Listen to Your Employees Before You Make Any Decisions
Too often, managers hear about a conflict and immediately decide how to handle it without clarifying, ensuring accuracy, or getting the perspective of another person involved. This can lead to missteps, frustration, and more.
It's essential that you take the time to listen to both sides of the story before you make a decision. This will help you ensure that you're making the right decision for the situation, and it will also help build trust with your employees. They need to know that you're fair and that you're willing to listen to them before making any decisions.
So next time there's a conflict between employees, take a step back and listen to what they have to say. It could save you a lot of headache in the long run!
Use the Right Communication Channel at the Right Time
As a manager, you need to be aware of the different communication channels at your disposal and know when to use each one. The most common ones are email, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and text messages. These channels all have their pros and cons. For example, email is the easiest way to communicate with a large number of people at once but it’s not very personal or effective for sensitive conversations.
The next step would be knowing when each channel should be used for different purposes. For instance, you should use email as a last resort when trying to resolve an issue with an employee because it’s impersonal and doesn’t always convey a tone. In general, reserve digital forms of communication for things like updates, to-do lists, and quick questions, and rely on phone or face-to-face conversations for things like giving critical feedback, resolving issues, and heavier discussions.
Hold People Accountable
Conflicts are not always jointly-shared. In the cases where the conflict stems from one person - whether they’re harassing, bullying, or otherwise mistreating another - hold that person accountable for their actions, rather than treating it like a mutual issue for both employees to work on. Employees must know that the organization has a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory or harmful behaviors.
As HR professionals, we know that workplace conflicts are inevitable. However, that doesn’t mean that they have to derail productivity or damage relationships. Ultimately, communication is one of the most critical components of workplace cohesion. When there’s a breakdown or conflict is too high, it can poison the general atmosphere and create tensions, alliances, and many other challenges that are difficult to navigate. The best approach is to model, practice, and enforce healthy and active communication principles.
At GoCo, we believe that automation can play a key role in conflict resolution. Our software helps HR departments, managers and employees communicate openly and fairly, so that disputes can be resolved quickly and efficiently. Take a tour of our platform to learn more about how we can help you automate your conflict resolution process.