In a workplace environment, where people from different backgrounds bring their different experiences, conflict is part of the package. There will always be different opinions and perspectives, and this should be regarded as a positive. A bit of healthy competition between colleagues to reach a goal is healthy. A spirited debate about which approach to take to a project can be hugely productive, and colleagues disagreeing is often how we challenge each other and reach a better understanding.
Conflict of one form or another in the workplace is inevitable. And when they happen, the idea isn’t to prevent them, but rather to manage and resolve them in the most effective manner. Without the establishment of rigorous conflict resolution procedures within your company, small disagreements can escalate to arguments, personality clashes or - worse - bullying and distress in the workplace.
Here we explore how to stay tuned into the feelings of your staff members - and how to resolve conflicts when they arise.
How can you spot a conflict in your company?
If employees are struggling to get along and work together, it will come as no surprise that performance will suffer. If your staff are unhappy they may feel unmotivated, which means the time they spend working will be less productive, with slower delivery on objectives and completion of projects.
Higher turnover and absence rate
If you find your staff turnover and absenteeism rates have increased, you may need to do some investigating. If employees are unhappy or in conflict with colleagues, resigning or avoiding the workplace may be how they’re choosing to deal with it. When a member of your team leaves, ensure that you have an exit interview to understand why.
Listen out for direct complaints
Some employees may be happy to voice their concerns or complaints directly, and some less so - but if staff are given an opportunity to give feedback it is often clear when they are experiencing a conflict at work. Even if you need to read between the lines sometimes, you can usually tell.
Steps to effectively resolve conflict
Identify the source of the conflict
If you have identified a conflict between employees that you are not directly involved in, you need to find a way to meet it head-on. Diarise a time to talk in a neutral location, and try to understand and agree on the root cause of the problem. This does not necessarily need to be the moment the conflict is resolved, but having a good understanding of where it originates from and how both parties view the situation will help to set a resolution strategy.
You should always ensure you have some kind of HR support as you embark on this process.
Focus on behaviour and events, not personalities
It’s important that discussions don’t get personal. During the conflict resolution process, all parties involved need to focus on facts and avoid making sweeping statements about what they perceive to be character flaws or personality clashes. This way, discussions don’t get too emotional and it’s easier to see a clear path to understanding.
Listen actively and let everybody have their say
As a manager, it’s vital that you remain neutral. Listen actively to both sides, avoid any reaction, and do not take sides - even if privately you identify more with one party than another. Ask purposeful questions, which dig a little deeper into what may be causing disagreement or unhappiness. If the situation is to have a satisfactory resolution it’s vital that your employees feel they have received fair treatment.
Summarise the points of the disagreement
After you meeting, or series of meetings, summarise the points of the disagreement in as factual a way as possible. Once people can see their conflict in black and white, they feel validated and also empowered to resolve it, because it has been acknowledged.
Draw up a plan for reaching common objectives
Once you’ve helped your team members talk it out, facilitate a plan that they can action to resolve the conflict between them. Each person will need to understand what is expected of them, and what actionable, tangible steps they can take to move towards a resolution. Again, ensure your HR team is involved and can support you and your employees in this.
Rome wasn’t build in a day, and neither was trust and understanding in the workplace. Keep an open dialogue throughout and beyond this process, and use it to help set up a plan to prevent a repeat of conflict situations. Follow up directly with affected staff members over the coming weeks and months. The good news is that with proper support, there are very few conflicts in the workplace that can’t be overcome.
Stay one step ahead
When you’re building your team, ensuring good relationships and avoiding conflict between employees is likely to be high on your list of priorities. At Instapeople it’s our priority too. When we recruit for you, we pay as much attention to Culture Fit as we do to Technical Fit. Our talent search isn’t just about finding the person with the qualifications to do the job - we also take into account how a candidate’s values, behaviours and interests align with your company’s values and your team dynamics. This can be the difference between a stable, happy team and a team that experiences disruptive high turnover and compromised performance.
Our happy clients trust us to get this right.
For us at InstaPeople, your success story is our success story, and we’re here to help you every step of the way. Get in touch with Lindy and her team today so we can accompany you on your recruitment journey.