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Taming Conflict in the Office

Whether you manage 6 people or 60, tensions and disagreements are bound to arise.  As a manager, helping to resolve employee conflicts comes with the territory.  In fact, sorting out employee personality differences can take up a huge chunk of your precious time. 

 

A common mistake that many managers make is to downplay a problem and assume it will go away on its own.  Most times, unfortunately, problems do not resolve themselves.  It is important for managers to address issues before they get out of control or blown out of proportion. 

 

For example, if you have an employee that is always butting heads with other staff members, you should meet with that individual and deal with the issue.  It is important to keep your tone neutral and your conversation impartial so the employee doesn’t feel like you are picking them.  Simply explain that you have noticed that they are having a problem communicating effectively with others and that deadlines could be missed because of this behavior. 

 

As a manager you should try to find out what is driving the behavior.  Is there a personal issue causing the employee stress that is affecting his or her attitude at work?  If it is work related, try to get to the root of the problem.  Perhaps the employee has outgrown his position and has become bored with the responsibilities of his or her job.  Work with the employee to develop a plan to resolve the issue.

 

If an employee is having problems with another worker, you will need to serve as a mediator.  Meet with both individuals and hear each employee’s side of the story.  Does it appear that one person is clearly at fault?  You should consider if both employees have heavy workloads that may lead to short tempers and stress.  Also, consider if they have a history of competing for the same projects or disagreeing on how to tackle assignments.

 

Try to let the two employees come up with a resolution that they think is fair.  If they cannot come up with a solution, it is your job to come up with one and make sure that both parties adhere.

 

Conflict is dangerous to team morale.  A “little disagreement” can quickly spread to other employees.  If employees begin to take sides,  it can drag down morale and even cause dedicated employees to question their fit with the team.  Gauge the effect of conflict by gathering feedback from your staff.  Always maintain an open door policy where employees are encouraged to share suggestions on how to strengthen the team.  

 

By fostering collaboration and camaraderie among team members, you can cut down on gossip, workplace politics and infighting.  Think about hosting events that combine business and pleasure such as lunch for team meetings.  This will help your employees get to know one another on a more personal level as well as help them to better understand each other.

 

 

As a manager, make your own job easier and more enjoyable by addressing behavior head on.  You will set a standard for your entire team to follow.