No matter how hard they try, some colleagues and team members just can’t seem to get along. From outbursts during meetings to email wars that can drag the entire office into a time-wasting state of tension, workplace conflict is one of the biggest obstacles to effective management.
If your business doesn’t have an HR specialist on the payroll, you don’t need to spend a fortune on consultants – here are some common-sense approaches you can take to resolving office conflicts.
Don’t ignore the problem – it will get worse
Some managers take a hands-off approach when conflicts arise between members of staff, and assume that a member of the team is “difficult” or is “having a bad day”.
Taking no further action may be an easy solution for the manager, but over time the tension levels in the office will rise – making the workplace an unpleasant place to be. Once this happens, staff morale will start to drop and team members will become less productive – none of this is good for business.
How to identify conflict
Workplace conflict can take many forms, but you can avoid unnecessary problems by following a general rule:
- As soon as two members of staff have a disagreement that becomes personal, send rude or aggressive emails, or raise their voices in the office, management should take action immediately.
This type of behaviour is unprofessional and damaging to the business as a whole – a solution needs to be found.
A conflict resolution checklist
The best way to resolve conflict between two people is by consultation – the staff members involved should meet with a senior representative of the business and discuss the events that lead to their unprofessional behaviour.
- Show you mean business
It’s important that a senior member of management or even a director attends the meeting, so that the team members understand how serious the problem really is.
- Listen to both sides of the story
Even if one person seems to be totally in the wrong, give both team members a chance to explain what happened. Make sure that each person gets to tell their version of the story without being interrupted.
- Work towards resolution
Ideally, your employees should learn from their disagreement and find out why things got out of hand – this will prevent conflict in the future.
In the worst-case scenario, they may have to agree that they don’t work very well together and do their best to behave professionally while staying out of each other’s hair.