Did you know that many managers spend nearly half their time at work mediating employee conflict?
Imagine the things you could do if you weren’t constantly playing referee to a couple of warring co-workers. Economic difficulties have only increased workplace turbulance, with employee conflict increasing by as much as 40% since 2008.
Even if some people are stressed about their job security, your workplace should never be a war zone. It’s supposed to be a friendly place where people collaborate to create the best product they can, whether it’s service-related or material goods.
Employees who constantly clash are major distractions for most organizations, as they reduce productivity and create tension. This isn’t good for business, and can ultimately undermine your managerial effectiveness and corporate success.
So how do you deal with social conflicts and distractions? For starters, you have to take each occurence seriously, and deflate the situation before it gets out of control.
You should always start by assessing the situation. Before you even talk to the employees, look for changes in their behavior or performance. If you notice unusual behavior, did it start before or after the conflict began?
If someone who’s normally very outgoing suddenly withdraws, log into your records. Repeat for any and all uncharacteristic behaviors. This will make it easier if you later need to call a meeting to talk to the battling coworkers. Behavioral logs are also useful for performance reviews, and even in administering disciplinary actions, if you feel that innapropriate behavior has gone too far.
Objectively view your company or department from an outsider’s perspective. Is the office always tense? Does everyone seem dissatisfied with their job? Do your employees do the bare minimum and groan at giving more than you ask for? If so, it’s probably a good bet that the two employees who are in constant battle are simply manifesting your company’s culture.
People are intuitive by nature. They often take on the characteristics of the company they work for. If you’re in an environment where people feel as though they have to compete against each other all the time, it’s emotionally draining, and incubates more conflict than teamwork.
To get a thorough understanding of the situation, meet with each employee separately in a comfortable environment. Offer some coffee or refreshments. This is an opportunity for each of them to be completely transparent with you. Is one employee living in fear of the other? Does one feel like they’re carrying the other employee’s weight? Does one constantly undermine the other’s work?
When you’re done with the separate meetings, call them both into a neutral place to address the situation. Discuss the problem and possible resolutions. Are they willing to work on the problem? Are they stubbornly inflexible about who is right and who’s in the wrong?
See if you can come up with a viable solution. Perhaps a transfer is in order. If your company is too small to move one person away from the situation, then you’ll have to make it clear that their job is more important than the conflict.
Once you’ve got a clear picture in your head of what’s going on, you can either shuffle around one of the workers to a different department, encourage them to resolve the issue, or if it’s bad enough, terminate one of them.
Don’t let it get to that. Promote co-operation and solicit anonymous feedback with social HR software.