We all like to be able to get along well with our work colleagues. It makes for a more pleasant and productive working environment. But what happens when things turn sour, and there is conflict in the workplace? Maybe you have colleagues or staff who are engaged in conflict and their behaviour is starting to affect the whole team? What can you do to manage the situation and get a quick and lasting resolution?
Often there is more to the conflict than just the event (or events) which brought things to a head… There will most likely be aspects of the business operating environment and the management style of the management team which has also contributed to the situation developing.
There are usually several ways to manage conflict:
Request the people directly involved to attend a conflict management workshop or participate in other training in the hope they learn the skills required to resolve the situation themselves.
Follow the written policies of the company and take the formal route of performance management which could result in dismissal if the situation continues to deteriorate further.
Recruit an independent coach to work with the individuals concerned, as well as the management team, to try and determine why the staff and their managers behave as they do. The coach will also provide various tools and techniques to help each person involved to learn how to better manage themselves (and/or their staff).
A combination of the above…
Conflict very rarely happens in isolation. The appearance of conflict in the workplace is often an indicator of some deficiencies in the business’s culture and/or management style. It could be the absence of consistent and fair management of the team concerned. Or there may be a climate or culture of little respect for the feelings or views of others. It could be that some inappropriate comments or behaviours were not addressed when they first happened. This inaction has sent a tacit message that some level of inappropriate behaviour is OK – soon this escalates to a level where even the most tolerant, finds the environment becoming very unpleasant.
Without good initial management, a situation can quickly deteriorate and soon an event occurs which means management has no choice but to respond. At this point emotions often run high, people may be angry or feel completely unsupported that the situation has persisted and not been addressed. Staff can become unmotivated and/or reduce their productivity significantly. Others may leave at the first opportunity and so the issue may appear to have been resolved. Workplace conflict can even become a health and safety issue – whereby continued exposure to conflict could result in staff members becoming too stressed to work.
So what to do? Bringing in an independent coach who can work with each person individually can help identify skill-gaps which can be addressed by prescribing particular personal and/or professional development activities. The beliefs and values of each person can be explored to help them understand their role in resolving the situation. They may gain insights into how they interact with others can result in receiving particular responses. They may also gain insights as to why others might respond to particular situations or stimuli. To maximise success it is important that the immediate manager of the staff directly involved in the conflict is also involved in the coaching process.
When working with the staff it is just as important to observe and understand the overall culture of the business:
How do people treat each other?
Is it OK to challenge the status quo or to engage in constructive debate to solve problems?
Are the managers dictatorial in style or collaborative?
Are people worried about their jobs?
It is also important to consider the organisation’s personnel and dispute management policies. They will be invaluable to determine at what point an informal intervention should become a more formal process.
If you want some help with conflict resolution, then give me a call!