Employee conflict is a fact of life. These conflicts can be personal or professional—and they happen in or outside of work. But these problems can also be structural, like the result of a poorly defined job role or HR policy.
As leaders, your role isn’t to end all conflict in the workplace, but you can’t ignore it either. It’s a fine line that you need to walk. Here are a few tips to help you manage employee conflict effectively.
Don’t Avoid the Tension
It’s natural to want to avoid the tension. Maybe your leadership style prefers harmony, or perhaps you don’t want to look like you’re playing favorites.
While you should avoid inserting yourself into the problem and stirring the pot, ignoring conflict isn’t in your job description. Instead, you should use your leadership and communication skills to talk to the employees involved – find out what the real issue is.
Find Out What’s Going On
Very often, the tension that appears manifests itself in a way different to the true nature of the conflict. In some cases, it’s not the intent of the behavior, but how the person on the receiving end’s perception of it.
As a manager, your job is to allow the people involved to tell their story without inserting your preconceived notions. It’s the only way to figure out what’s going on.
Getting to the heart of the conflict is vital for two reasons. It can’t be solved if it isn’t understood. What is more, the nature of the conflict could be structural (up to you), which means employees will struggle to work it out for themselves.
And second, you need to make sure the issue isn’t a result of workplace discrimination or harassment, which is an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issue.
If the tension is more than just disharmony, and it could equate to bullying or other negative behaviors, you want to your employee handbook. Additionally, you’ll want to keep a record of the events. Logs allow you to monitor your behavior over time and provide you with an account in case it escalates and results in a lawsuit.
Keep an Open-Door Policy and Foster a Trust-Centered Environment
In many cases, your role isn’t to force a solution, but to offer a reality check and let employees work it out for themselves.
This doesn’t apply when the conflict is an EEOC problem, or if the behavior equates to a bullying or site safety issue. Then, nip it in the bud ASAP.
Instead of getting involved in office politics or interpersonal dramas, keep an open-door policy available to all parties. Tell them you want to lend an ear and help them work through any issues as a team. Doing so prevents you from inadvertently taking sides or playing favorites or from declaring a winner and a loser.
Conflict Happens, But It Doesn’t Need to Dominate Your Workplace
Workplace conflict happens, and many ultimately resolve themselves. However, your role as a leader is to ensure the battle isn’t masking something else, and ensure your team is safe at work – in all manners of the word.
Do you need employees that don’t create conflict?
At Energi Personnel, human resources are what we do best. Give us a call today to discuss your needs and request an employee for your busy workplace today.