Disagreements in the workplace are natural and can be healthy for business. Too much conflict or conflict that is not managed well, however, can devolve into destructive behaviours that can lead to loss of productivity, high turnover and workplace complaints.
The causes and management of workplace conflict could fill a whole book. At Worklogic we work with clients to mitigate the risk of workplace conflict. Here are some simple, effective ways to prevent and manage workplace conflict.
Create a Positive Workplace Culture
Workplace Culture is the ‘vibe’ of the workplace – the unwritten rules of behaviour that people follow in a team. Modelling a positive workplace culture is one of the ways that managers can limit the negative effects of workplace conflict. A culture of respect can be modelled by interacting with staff with civility – ordinary social interactions go a long way to making people feel comfortable and that they have a voice in an organisation. The reverse is also true, a surprisingly large number of workplace complaints that have crossed our desks have included a complaint along the lines of ‘He doesn’t say hello to me in the morning’ or ‘She ignores me when we meet in the corridor’
Respect can also be modelled by ensuring that policies are applied fairly and that managerial decisions are made with appropriate consultation.
Ensure Your Organisation is Clear on Roles and Responsibilities
While workplace conflict can and does arise from a simple ‘clash of personalities’, our experience is that often ambiguity of roles and responsibilities is a significant contributor to workplace conflict. An important way to avoid unnecessary workplace conflict is to ensure that the workplace policies and the roles of staff members are clearly defined and updated.
Train for Effective Communication
Training your staff in communication skills is an important investment in managing conflict. Having difficult conversations around conflict is a skill and can be taught and practiced. Train your staff to prepare for conversations that address conflict in a constructive way.
Whilst this may sound obvious, so often when we are brought in to resolve workplace conflict between staff, a common theme is “why wasn’t there a transparent conversation about this when the situation first arose?”. Conflict does not miraculously heal itself (if only!). Early intervention by the manager is a core part of exploring what is going on, and resolving concerns.
Conflict Resolution – A Flexible Approach
Workplace conflict comes in many different shapes and sizes. In order to respond appropriately, it is important to have a number of approaches to conflict resolution in your toolbox.
Policy and procedures dealing with conflict and complaint resolution should emphasise local, informal dispute resolution as a first resort where possible when dealing with workplace conflict. Managers can be empowered and trained to assess complaints and assist staff to communicate and resolve problems.
Where the conflict is more complex or ingrained, managers can consider alternative dispute resolution techniques where parties are assisted to resolve conflict with the assistance of a trained mediator, facilitator or coach. Common interventions are Mediation, Facilitated Discussion (including group facilitated discussion) and Conflict Coaching.
If informal resolution of the workplace conflict doesn’t resolve the issue, or if the workplace conflict is so serious and /or has led to alleged behaviour which may carry an unacceptable risk to the organisation, then the policies dealing with workplace conflict should contain a clear an effective procedure for the fair and timely investigation into to the alleged conduct.
Want to learn more about the tools you can use to manage workplace conflict? Register now for our free webinar “How to Manage Workplace Conflict” on July 24. In this webinar Jodie will discuss the difference between mediations, facilitated discussions and workshops and how they can help manage conflict in your workplace.
About Jodie Fox
Jodie Fox brings to Worklogic a wealth of experience gained working with clients from a diverse range of industries. Previously working as an employment lawyer at a top-tier law firm for almost 10 years, Jodie worked closely with a host of large and small clients.
Worklogic offers a range of services to help you develop effective employment policies and effective code of conduct and training programs for your organisation. If you need help in this area, contact Jodie for an obligation free consultation via email or call (03) 9981 6558.
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