Addressing conflict in the workplace is the last thing most managers want to do. It’s not hard to understand, since dealing with such problems can be stressful and simply unpleasant to manage. However, failing to manage a conflict in a timely manner typically makes the issue even worse! To help you address workplace conflicts in healthy, productive ways, review the following tips.
1) Don’t Ignore the Problem
It can be easy to bypass a workplace conflict when you have so many other tasks to take care of during the day. Unfortunately, ignoring a workplace problem or any other conflict does not make it go away. What it does is heighten the tension and create a stressful work environment for everyone, not just the coworkers in conflict. It also sends the wrong message to your team–a message that management does not really care about their well-being or how tension-filled the environment has become. You want your employees to know that maintaining a healthy workspace for them to grow and thrive is important to you, not that you barely care about how comfortable they feel in the workplace. If team members feel like their managers do not care about their workplace well-being, it is unlikely that they will do their best in the office or other commercial environments. Instead, they will do the bare minimum and probably have a “you don’t care, I don’t care” attitude. This does nothing for your business’s reputation as a fantastic place to work and may result in poor reviews on GlassDoor and similar sites from ex-employees who are disgruntled and want to share their tales of distress and woe.
Even if you cannot address the workplace conflict immediately due to your schedule, you still want to acknowledge it and schedule a time to discuss the problem. For example, you could send an email or slack message saying something like, “I understand there is an issue between [x employee] and [y employee]. I am sorry that I cannot address the issue today or tomorrow due to my schedule, but please know that it is a top priority. Let’s meet to discuss the problem in detail on Thursday morning at 10 am in the conference room. I look forward to resolving this conflict and helping everyone feel better! Your well-being is important to me!”
2) Find a Time to Discuss the Issue in Private
Addressing conflict in the workplace the right way means diffusing the issue before it has the chance to worsen. For example, if you see two employees “getting into it” in front of their peers, it’s time to take action. Get between the individuals if you have to and let them know the problem is not one to air publicly, since they are in a professional environment, not at home or anywhere else. Make it clear that you want to resolve the issue privately, such as in an unused meeting room. Again, you might not be able to discuss the problem that day, but it is important to schedule the next available time. Any conflict should be discussed in private, no matter what it is about.
By preventing further public spats, you are making it clear that your workplace does not tolerate such behavior. Other employees will take note and refrain from engaging in disputes in front of their coworkers. Instead, they will be more inclined to deal with problems privately. This contributes to a more tranquil work environment and avoids reputation issues. If word gets out that your office is a volatile place where employees and managers engage in arguments often in front of their colleagues, attracting new talent becomes problematic.
3) Remain Calm
As challenging as it can be to stay calm during a heated situation, doing so proves invaluable. Not only does it keep your blood pressure from going up and hurting your health, but it also helps the workers in conflict calm down. After all, it’s hard to keep shouting or otherwise being belligerent when the person trying to diffuse the situation is calm and cool. If it helps, take a few deep breaths through your diaphragm. Deep breathing instantly calms the mind and body, so encourage those in conflict to do the same. Once everyone has taken a few deep breaths and feels calm, you can move forward with conflict resolution processes. You might also want to ask if anyone needs more time before talking about what caused the conflict and how best to resolve it. If your office or other work space has a meditation room or similar space for relaxing, suggest employees take turns spending a few minutes in said room. It is amazing what a little deep breathing and self-reflection can do for those in conflict. Dealing with the issue might not be as difficult once everyone has the chance to breathe and calm down, depending on what caused the problem.
Staying calm is also a way to show that you are objective and not taking sides in the disagreement. Even if you feel a certain way about the problem, you should never, ever make it obvious. Showing any kind of favoritism reflects badly on you, which can make your boss rethink your current position in the company. If you feel you cannot be objective for any reason, extract yourself from the situation and ask another manager or business leader to take over. The best person is one who does not know either team member, as they can be completely objective about the issue. Should your business include a Human Resources department, have an HR team member address the issue and create a plan for resolving it permanently. If your business is growing but does not have an HR department yet, consider creating one or hiring two or three individuals to act as mediators. These people can be salaried team members or freelance contractors, depending on what your budget currently allows. You can always hire them as full-time employees at a later date.
4) Consider Professional Mediation Services
There are times when someone completely outside of the company should come in and manage an employee or managerial conflict. Known as professional mediators, these individuals are totally objective and have the skills and training to mediate all kinds of workplace conflicts effectively. If you feel the issue at hand has stagnated and no one can move forward for whatever reason, it is likely time to call in the “big mediation guns.” Pro-mediators discuss the issue at length in a private setting, emphasize the importance of compromise, and provide the team members in question with tools that help them address and get past the current problem, and prevent future conflicts.
5) Have a Workplace Seminar About Conflict Resolution
If you notice a conflict brewing among employees, address the conflict as quickly as possible and schedule a workplace seminar relating to the problem. Use the seminar to discuss the importance of self-awareness, self-control, empathy, problem-solving, active listening, and collaboration. Use the seminar or meeting as a chance to remind everyone that getting along is a workplace must, even if they do not like each other personally. The office or any other work environment is no place for personal feelings to get in the way and create drama. Most people are at least capable of being civil, especially at work. You can also stress the importance of empathy because no one ever really knows what is going on with others. Words and reactions that are perceived negatively by employees might have nothing to do with them and everything to do with what’s going on in the other person’s head. Empathy and compassion subsequently help people take moments to breathe and remember that employees they find difficult or offensive might be going through personal battles they know nothing about.
Addressing Conflicts in the Workplace Successfully Takes Time
Learning to address workplace conflicts in a way that benefits the employees and the entire team is not something you learn overnight. It takes time, patience, and practice, but is well worth the effort. Even if you are not as successful as you would like on your first or even your second or third try, do not be discouraged. Your intentions are in the right place, which will come through to the employees or managers in conflict. Focus on doing what is best for your team, whether it is having another business leader deal with the problem, hiring outside help, scheduling weekly “check-ins” or trying anything else that contributes to a positive, healthy work environment. Employee wellness is taken more seriously than ever, and doing your part makes your commitment to a tranquil workplace clear. Let your team know that you are learning with them and that you can help each other become more compassionate, empathetic, and understanding individuals. You’ll also find that learning to deal with assorted workplace conflicts successfully translates to other areas of your life, such as conflicts with your spouse or family members.
For more about addressing workplace conflicts, get in touch with us today!