Is your office becoming less of a workplace and more of a war zone? Then it might be time to raise the white flag of truce and get everyone back on track!
Rising Conflict In The Workplace
A lot of things can happen in business. People come and go. New ideas spring up at work, grow and wither away. But one thing is sure to remain, as it has for millions of years: conflict.
Walk into any office today. It could a multi-million dollar corporation, or a small local business. You will find that their employees have exchanged hurtful words at one time or another.
In fact, one study about workplace conflict in 2008 discovered two things:
1) 85% of all employees experienced conflict in the workplace.
2) These employees spent an average of 2.8 hours a week dealing with conflict.
That’s roughly equal to 145 hours spent managing conflict each year!
But how exactly can conflict affect business productivity?
Conflict in Steph’s Workplace
Let’s take a look at the story of Steph. A local business owner, she’s wrangling with some conflict between two of her employees, George and Lee. “I never expected that a little spat between the two could affect the whole business. It even frightened away a few customers!”, she shared.
Steph continues, “It all began with an argument over a tiny matter. Thinking it was just a small, temporary thing, I left it to them to fix the issue. But as the days went by, the problem only grew worse. It came to a point where all the other guys had to take sides. They were all afraid it might even turn into a full-blown fight! Soon, the two started to sabotage each other in the office. At one point, George even argued with a customer! It turns out, he had a heated argument with Lee just a few minutes earlier.”
The unhappy customer complained to Steph how rudely she was treated. This minor conflict resulted in a major loss for the business, since she was one of their top customers.
Steph finally decided that it was time to take matters into her own hands.
5 Important Tips for Managing Conflict in the Workplace
To solve her problem, Steph consulted books, business veterans, and even her lawyers. She summarized all the practical points she could find into 5 simple tips.
- Establish written house rules.
- Define what kind of behavior is acceptable and unacceptable in the office. List them down as bullet points and post it on the hallways.
- Always remind employees how you expect them to behave. You can do this by hanging printouts of positive proverbs and slogans on the office walls.
- Orient new employees about company rules. Organize team building activities and appoint peacemaking bodies.
- Tackle the situation in a logical way.
When handling conflict, it’s best to look at the situation without bias. It doesn’t matter who the employees are and what their position is. The important thing is for you to focus on the nature of the conflict and its cause.
To get to the bottom of things, find answers to these important questions:
- Who are the people involved?
- What are the reasons for the disagreement?
- What actions caused the conflict to escalate?
- What steps can you take to resolve the conflict?
- Let both parties state their position in the conflict.
Begin by allowing both parties to state their position on the matter. Let the one hear out what the other has to say in a civilized manner. List down all the important points on a whiteboard to keep everyone in the same page.
- Summarize the important points of agreement and disagreement.
A summary of the important points will help everyone remember the cause of the conflict. Often, the conflict gets out of hand because of the exchange of improper words and actions.
Each person’s emotions prevented them from solving the problem using logic and reason. Give a simple summary of the important points of disagreement. This encourages them to step back and look at each side calmly and clearly.
- Allow both parties to suggest possible ways to resolve the situation.
After everyone gets the chance to explain their part, encourage them to take part in the solution. Allow them to suggest possible ways to end the conflict. This is a good way of showing to each party that the other is willing to make amends.
Ending the Conflict
To end the problem, Steph called George and Lee to her office and asked them to discuss matters over coffee. “In the end,” she says, “they only needed to listen to the other person to come up with a compromise.”
Finally, all is well. The office is back to normal. George even personally apologized to the customer and won her business back.
This experience taught Steph a valuable lesson. The best way to keep conflict manageable is to instill good work ethics into everyone.
- Cultivate a culture of professionalism among your employees.
- Emphasize the importance of teamwork and respect.
- Always keep an eye open for early signs of conflict.