Sometimes people just don’t get along. They are from varying walks of life and will view things differently. Someone’s standpoint on a particular topic may offend someone else and a seemingly sound decision might seem illogical to the next person.
When you are managing people in a business setting, you are bound to find yourself facing personality clashes. These issues could range from something as simple as someone playing music too loudly to larger issues like rumors and accusations. Generally, people will be civil and work together despite their differences, but sometimes issues are such that they cannot find a common ground and you will need to intervene.
It is important that you recognize and understand the nature of the conflict, then address it in a healthy, productive and timely manner. The longer a conflict is left to fester, the harder it will be to resolve. Longstanding conflict is detrimental to a business as it will lead to disputes and hostile working environments. This could result in loss of productivity and could stifle creativity. It may also create barriers for employees to cooperate and collaborate.
Conflict cannot be avoided indefinitely, and when it arises, it should be dealt with swiftly and objectively. Below are some tips that will help you prevent conflict, but should it arise, tackle it in a manner that will satisfy both parties and bring resolution.
Define Acceptable Behavior
Defining what is acceptable and unacceptable in the company is a positive step towards preventing conflict. Create a framework for decision making that will outline behaviors that are in line with the company’s rules and regulations. Outline clearly how managers will select who is in charge of team projects, encourage sound business practices and collaborations, and reward excellent teamwork.
Clearly define job descriptions so that people know what is expected of them. They should also be aware of the reporting hierarchy, which will allow for effective communication. Employees should know what will and will not be tolerated. This will help avoid confusion about unacceptable behaviors that may lead to conflict.
Seek Out Areas of Potential Conflict
Watch out for personality clashes between employees and find ways to help them work together despite their differences. Some personality clashes may be obvious, for example, team members with very strong and opposing convictions on certain subjects. In this case, call both employees and discuss the issue before it becomes a conflict.
Other areas with a potential to cause conflict are not always obvious; they manifest in subtle ways like an employee withdrawing from their colleagues, demotivation, and a drop in work performance. Privately consult the employee and find out what could be the root cause of their issues, and if indeed it is work related, address the situation accordingly before it escalates.
Identify the Real Issue
Often the root cause of a conflict is clouded by emotions that surround it. A small issue can escalate to a much larger one because of a simple offense. If Employee “A” is offended by Employee “B” playing their music loudly, and that issue is not addressed quickly, it could affect their working relationship, making it difficult for them to collaborate on projects.
Identifying the root cause of conflict among co-workers will help you address the actual problem, not just treat the symptoms.
Approach the Situation with an Open Mind
Be neutral and consider both points of view. If an employee reports an issue with another, listen to each side of the story without prejudice. Take an objective look and try to understand each party’s perspective. Ask questions if necessary. Approach the issue with a rational, goal oriented frame of mind, which will depersonalize the conflict and separate the issue from the people involved.
Deal with Facts, not Emotions
Acknowledging emotions does not mean focusing on them. It means accepting that people are angry, unhappy, hurt, etc., and realizing that the emotions are just a byproduct of the problem. Address the problem, not emotions. Avoid attacking personalities or passing judgement on character. Attacking someone’s character will only cause defensiveness and have people take offense, which will only escalate the conflict. Acknowledge how both parties feel, but be sure to focus on the specific issue needing resolution.
Consider the Best Time to Address the Issue
It is important to address conflict as quickly as possible, but it will be much more difficult if everybody is still angry. People are not likely to be reasonable when emotions are high. Their focus would be on proving they are right, not resolving the conflict. Ask both parties to take time to reflect on the situation, then set up a meeting where everyone can discuss the issue more objectively.
Ask Both Parties to Suggest a Solution
After hearing both sides of the story, ask each participant to suggest what they would like to see happen in order for the issue to be resolved. Encourage the employees to consider the other person and offer a solution that will benefit all parties. Weigh both solutions and decide on a resolution that is in the best interest of the employees and the company. Explain your decision to the employees and make sure everyone is willing to move on.
Conflict is a normal part of any organizational setting; the challenge lies in how it is handled. If it’s concealed or ignored, conflict is likely to fester and grow into hostile working environments where employees can’t perform at their highest potential. You should view conflicts as opportunities to grow. Allow time to reflect and readjust after one occurs. Doing this trains employees to face future difficulties more effectively.