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Handling Conflict in the Office

Sometimes it feels like conflict in the office is just part of the job!  It’s important to remember that workplace problems come in all sizes, and one size (in this case, the approach) doesn’t necessary  fit all.

 

Here are some great guidelines from  Portland Community College to help you tackle problems in your workplace.

 

1. Identify the problem.

Be very specific in identifying the core of the problem. Consider these examples:

  • A less qualified person got the promotion you desired.
  • You regularly have to work overtime.
  • You didn’t get the expected pay raise.
  • A fellow employee is making harassing comments.
  • You didn’t get the office you wanted.
  • The employer isn’t providing an accommodation requested.
  • A fellow employee never refills the coffee pot after taking the last cup.

 

2. Determine the size and scope of the problem.

How serious is the problem? How often does the problem occur? Is it a big enough (or frequent enough) problem worth tackling?

 

3. Determine the severity of the problem.

How serious or relevant is the problem to the work environment? To you, the individual involved? Again, is it important enough and worth tackling?

 

Less serious work-related problems might include minor inconveniences and annoyances in the work environment, such as supplies needed are out, the copy machine wasn’t refilled with paper, and so on. Often these types of problems can be easily addressed by communicating concerns with the individual involved. Sometimes minor inconveniences and annoyances are brushed aside and ignored — and sometimes should be.

 

Work-related problems considered to be of a more serious nature would include those that pose a risk to health and safety, violate federal or state workplace laws, violate company policies or employee contracts, and so on.

 

4.  Identify the easiest way to resolve the problem.What specifically, and most simply, would resolve the conflict? What’s the easiest solution? A conversation to share concerns? An apology? A meeting? Mediation? Try to keep it as simple as possible by choosing the easiest route first.

 

As workplace conflicts vary in nature, no one approach may necessarily work for every situation encountered. But, again, whenever possible, start with the easiest approach first. Legal action, if applicable to the particular situation, should be used only as a last resort after all other attempts to solve the problem have been tried first.

5.  Arrange to meet with your employer.

Schedule an appointment to meet with your supervisor. In most situations, discussing a problem with your supervisor can usually resolve most conflicts. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding, an oversight, or a lack of legal knowledge. Often bringing the problem to the employer’s attention will help resolve the problem. Given the opportunity, most companies will work to address a problem, especially a problem that could involve the company legally.

 

6.  Prepare for the meeting with your employer.

To communicate concerns to an employer effectively, the following tips are suggested:

Know the workplace laws. When applicable, it’s wise to become familiar with federal and state employment laws and regulations that apply to the problem at hand. Knowing what the laws say, what they do, and who’s covered will enable you to know what your rights are in the workplace.

 

Research company policies, employee contracts, and employee handbooks. Review your copy of the company policy manual, employee contract manual, and employee handbook to become familiar with company policies and/or negotiated contract agreements that relate to the problem.

 

Write a brief summary. Very simply…

1. State the concern or problem. 2. List the facts (only the facts) related to the problem. 3. State your recommendation for resolving the problem.

 

7.  Meet with your employer.

The following tips are suggested:

  • Meet with the employer in a private location away from co-workers.
  • Take a copy of your written summary to the meeting to share with the employer.
  • State the problem, facts, and your recommendation.
  • Stick to the facts.
  • Don’t become overly emotional or lose your temper. A calm presentation of a complaint is always more effective than an emotional or hostile confrontation. No matter how emotional or angry you may feel…
  • Stay calm.
  • If the supervisor needs more time to address your problem, try to establish a timeline with the supervisor so you know when to expect a response or remedy to the problem.

At this point, hopefully the problem will be resolved. However, if the problem is not resolved and further action is needed, go to #8.

8.  Document the problem.

Set up a file and keep records of all relevant documents and correspondence. Records should include factual written summaries of incidents noting date, time, location, and persons involved; memos and letters; relevant work documents; meeting notes; performance evaluations; and any other relevant paperwork to document your workplace problem. Keeping a paper trail is essential for providing needed evidence should legal action be needed down the road.