Workplace conflict can often cause feelings of concern or anxiety, especially for supervisors who have to manage these situations. The term workplace conflict may conjure up images of non-professional behavior, raised voices or heightened tension between employees. While it makes sense that most leaders would try to avoid conflict, some conflict can be constructive when managed successfully.
When handled properly, disagreements can provide employees the opportunity to express differing viewpoints without fear of ridicule or embarrassment, and may even foster and promote employee engagement and team morale. Here are some tips that leaders can use to effectively manage these situations:
To cultivate an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable expressing concerns, leaders should regularly elicit feedback from their teams. Creating a positive and safe place to express opinions can be key to gaining insight on potentially negative situations before they arise. While some workers may be more comfortable expressing their opinions than others, checking in with each employee individually may help instill confidence and a willingness to openly share views in the future.
When gathering employee feedback, leaders should remain present, be open to all thoughts or concerns, and be ready to act if necessary. Failure to respond to a pressing issue or suggestion may be more damaging than not listening in the first place, whereas displaying openness and empathy can help develop a culture in which workers feel heard and valued.
Avoid taking sides
When a disagreement arises in the workplace, the affected individuals should be given the opportunity to share their feelings and opinions without fear of retaliation or anger. Management should remain cautious about taking sides in these situations, as this may help mitigate feelings of isolation and embarrassment by the involved party.
When seeking a resolution, managers should make the process collaborative and provide all parties with constructive feedback and details of any relevant next steps, helping to ensure a mutual understanding of the situation. After a resolution has been reached, leaders should follow up periodically with those affected in order to assess progress, minimize further conflict and continue improving morale.
Workplace conflict has the potential to spread rapidly and can occasionally affect employees who are otherwise content. When conflict does arise, leadership should move quickly to maintain positive employee morale and prevent negative energy from spreading through the workplace.
Conflict is often unavoidable and, to some degree, a normal and expected occurrence in the workplace. If leadership and the employees involved remain professional and respectful, the situation can become a positive and constructive experience. By investing time to listen, communicating clear goals and outlining the steps necessary to resolve the issue in a calm and friendly manner, managers can help demonstrate and foster a workplace culture based on open discussion and trust.
Eric Bonugli is a district manager and Kay Oder is a Certified Business Performance Advisor for Insperity. They are located in the company’s Austin office. Insperity, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 32 years provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance.