Workplace conflict is one of the worst things that can happen at the office – or any other place of business. It negatively affects productivity, permanently sours relationships, makes employees sick with stress, and can even lead to such extreme measures as people getting into physical altercations, or quitting their jobs which they otherwise enjoy.
Good employers, managers, and Human Resources specialists know the importance of correctly identifying and avoiding situations and personalities that can potentially lead to workplace conflict, as well as how to peacefully resolve them when they do occur. These are some of the tips they employ to do this.
As Soon As You Notice Conflicts, Address Them Head-On
Conflicts, even in their earliest stages, very rarely resolve themselves. Much more often, they just keep festering and becoming bigger, more deep-rooted, until they finally explode in the worst possible way.
This is why it is important to try to nip it in the bud, while you still have the best chance of doing so. When you detect some hostility, openly talk about it, to see if you can reach the root of the problem, or at least a compromise.
Talking about personal and private issues can at first be uncomfortable – both for you and your employees – but learning how to get them to relax and open up to you is much healthier in the long run, for everyone involved, including the company.
Clearly Define Your Expectations
A lot of problems often stem from not having – or misunderstanding – what is expected from employees and what employees expect from upper management. By providing a clear set of expectations, such as: what is the scope of the project, when is it supposed to be due, who is the lead, and so on – we can eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, the amount of conflict that arises from confusion.
When organizing the project pipeline, writing up the documentation, and communicating what are the goals of the project – leave nothing to chance. Lay everything out exactly as you would want someone to explain it to someone who knows nothing about the project. Too much information is better than a lack of it and always assume that there will be at least someone who is too shy or uncertain to ask questions they don’t know the answers to.
Respect Personal Boundaries and Differences
Everyone has things and topics that they consider taboo and don’t want to discuss in the workplace. For the majority, these are their political and religious beliefs. Because these two are so intrinsic to the way we think and act, we can often react very strongly when they are challenged. Therefore, it’s a good idea to not get into these kinds of discussions with your colleagues – nothing positive can come of it, just potential resentment and a loss of respect.
Dirty jokes, talking about sex, and office gossip are also things that can easily upset people and make them feel uneasy and ruin their concentration and workflow, so don’t talk about these to just anyone.