Anytime there's conflict in the workplace, a tension is created that can become strenuous to the overall morale of a team and weaken the workplace environment. It can be exhausting when you find yourself with dealing with difficult personalities or employees who refuse to play nice. It's a commonly occurring situation that can affect all levels of operation, from upper management to contract teams. And truth is, there are situations where despite best efforts, personality types clash and a resolution may not be overtly clear. Here are a few suggestions on how you may be able to help avert a blow out when it conflict takes over.
Different Folks, Different Strokes
Compiling strong teams from all walks of life, experience and arenas can be a blessing and a curse. Amidst this melting pot, be aware of the fact that not everyone on your team will agree on all topics, but encourage them to be open-minded to new ideas and communicate clearly and respectfully with one another. Often minor conflicts can be dealt with on a one-on-one basis if both people are willing to really listen to one another. Remind them that everyone's opinion is valuable, and that they may need to "agree to disagree" on a particular matter before it festers. Encouraging employees to work it out on their own is empowering and can actually improve moral if the conflict is resolved at this level, as it creates a great sense of open communication between team members.
But, When a Referee is Required…
There are times when conflicts arise that are not as easily resolved. Be it over a difference of professional or personal opinion, keep an open mind if you're asked to be a mediator. Listen objectively to both sides of the story, reserving judgment and maintaining a neutral emotional stance. Be conscious of the negative self-talk about the conflict, choosing sides or talking to other team members about the problem. Though it can be frustrating when an on-going issue affects the livelihood of your team, your ability to keep a cool, positive demeanor will set an example to everyone when it comes to future conflict management.
Keeping conversation details or resolution actions private will help keep it from inflicting further damage to the team's cohesiveness. But you must be prepared to set consequences if simple discussion fails to remedy the issue. Consider engaging other members of your company (i.e. HR, or other support management) for tools, tips or actions you can take if the problem persists. Have the courage to protect the overall morale of the team and productivity of the company in the wake of extensive negativity from an issue that shows no signs of resolve.
Though conflict in the workplace is often unavoidable, there are ways of managing it compassionately and effectively. By setting a strong, problem-solving leadership example, you can help encourage positive growth amongst your team in the face of natural adversity and create a strong cohesive moral for the future that will strengthen your team.