Conflicts in the workplace often arise due to something trivial. Something small between colleagues develops into a major problem. A problem that can have an effect on the entire department or organization. Preventing conflicts is, of course, the best thing. Is the problem already there? Then it is important to resolve this as quickly as possible.
Disagreement and friction in the workplace do not benefit productivity. For good cooperation, differences of opinion will have to be overcome. A pleasant working atmosphere makes all employees perform better.
But how do you effectively resolve conflicts in the workplace?
Why not take a look at some tips on how to avoid and resolve common problems on the work floor here.
Conflicts between colleagues are apart of working life
So many people, so many opinions. When colleagues interact intensively, it is unavoidable that differences of opinion and annoyances arise.
If you allow several people to work together, often under pressure, it is quite normal for a collision to occur here and there.
If this remains the case and the disagreement is pronounced, there is no dirt in the air. But as soon as the annoyances pile up, there becomes a breeding ground for conflicts. You want to prevent this. Because conflict in the workplace will influence the success of the collaboration in such a way that the work suffers.
But many colleagues will not respond so assertively. Team members avoid conflict-avoiding behaviour. Minor frictions and disagreements remain unspoken and start to lead a life of their own. Gossip, poor cooperation and miscommunication cause the team to be divided. Colleagues start to avoid each other.
An eruption is inevitable. Sooner or later the emotions run so high that the bomb finally goes off. And it will always happen at a time when it is not convenient. Just before an important deadline for example.
A successful team dares to address each other about behaviour so that conflicts are nipped in the bud. Annoyances are pronounced before a real problem arises.
Related to this article: Keep employees motivated
How do you deal with conflicts in the workplace?
Dealing with conflicts is not always easy. The sooner you are there, the easier and faster it can be solved. But conflict is not always recognizable.
Of course, you know that you are dealing with conflict when colleagues start yelling at each other overheated. But you want to be ahead of that moment. When does the friction within a team become so intense that you have to intervene? An article specifically written to support managers in improving the working atmosphere.
Often the problems are dormant for a while before they come to light. Colleagues seem polite towards each other. The negative feelings; irritations, sadness, anger and powerlessness are well hidden.
But if you pay attention, you see that some colleagues no longer like to work together. They attack each other in a personal way and are no longer open to each other’s crowd. This behaviour affects the entire team. This mutual tension brings stress with it. And gossip does not mean that the team members come closer together.
As soon as you as a manager suspect that there are mutual tensions, it is good to start with this. Better too much than too less. When you show that you are keeping a close eye on colleague behaviour, this also encourages your employees to resolve conflicts themselves. As a result, situations will escalate less quickly.
You want to avoid what it costs to prevent the behaviour of some employees from hindering the pleasure of working, and therefore the productivity, of others. The success of a complete team can be undermined by one or a few employees.
So you suspect that a conflict is imminent, intervene and prevent the worst.
There are conflicts, accepting them helps
Ignoring that conflicts exist in the workplace is, in this case, the worst thing you can do as a supervisor. With this, you undermine the work happiness of your employees. Conflicts in the workplace are experienced as very annoying. If the situation persists for a long time, it may even be a reason for burnout.
All the negative feelings associated with the irritations surrounding a conflict give extra stress. And employees who experience too much stress will perform less well.
Recognizing that conflict situations are part of it is already a step in the right direction. As soon as a group of different people work together, these situations will arise. Different ways of communicating, different opinions and the characters of people can clash. As a manager, you cannot change anything about that.
What you can do about it is how you deal with the situation. By not running away from conflicts between colleagues, but dealing constructively with this, the team comes out stronger.
Instead of arguing, we can better engage with healthy employees!
What started the conflict?
Conflict in the workplace does not come from just anywhere. A whole story has generally preceded it. Of course, colleagues can have a tough discussion in due course. But as long as they can both put their eggs in it, this is no reason for action.
You notice that the atmosphere is getting worse, the tensions rise and there is no reason to give up. Then it’s time to tackle the problem.
As mentioned, there is no conflict from one moment to the next. Something has preceded it, which has fueled this struggle.
Is there a wrong pattern of expectations, is communication not clear, agreements are not being met, is there a major disagreement or even a power struggle going on?
Also, note the effect within the team. Who is affected by this situation? Are those the only people involved or does the entire team suffer?
It can even go so far that your customers suffer from mutual disagreement between your employees. That, of course, is the last thing you want.
How to handle conflicts between colleagues?
Most conflicts are, for the most part, silently fought. The irritations are focused on small incidents. Comments such as “look, he will be the first to go home” or “she will pass on all her work to a colleague” often do not show what it is really about.
Are they really annoyed by the fact that someone goes home first? Perhaps this colleague was at the office an hour earlier than the rest. Often the problem is somewhere else and this is projected on the person.
As soon as you find out what the real problem is, you make the conflict negotiable. You decide whether you only address the people involved or the team as a whole.
Certainly, when the entire team clearly suffers from the situation, it is good to include this in your plan.
Make an action plan and consider which set has the best chance of success. Addressing someone in front of the entire team does not always have the desired effect.
Communicate effectively in situations of conflict
How you communicate in conflict situations is of great importance. Due to the rising emotions, comments can be completely wrong. If someone feels attacked, more emotions are released. A constructive conversation is then no longer possible.
Assertive communication is the key to a good end result. You want to resolve the conflict, get the noses back in the same direction. That is the goal. Keep this in mind throughout the conversation. Don’t go astray in small details, but stick to the broad lines.
What is going on and how do we proceed in a positive way from this situation? You can make clear how you would like the situation resolved. But always be open to the position of your employees.
Even if you disagree, it is important to listen. They give you an important message. Perhaps you can use this to make a new plan of action in which everyone feels at home.
No matter how difficult it can be during an emotional conversation, stick to the facts and always be polite. As long as you keep talking calmly and politely, you show that you are in control of the situation. Do not respond to nasty comments or personal attacks.
Communication is a learning goal to reduce stress. Read more learning goals that contribute to lower absenteeism
Resolve the conflict for everyone
As a manager, you may soon be inclined to solve a problem to your own advantage. You want it this way, the rest just arranges it. But with that, you solve the problem for a short time at most. The irritations remain and grow into a new conflict.
By listening to your employees and including their limits, norms and values in your decision, you come to a solution that works for everyone.
Make clear how you would like each other to be treated. Encourage a positive working atmosphere. Involve everyone in finding a solution. This way conflicts are largely prevented in the future.
When you involve the entire team in the consultation, looking for the best solution to the problem, you can hold everyone responsible for compliance.
A decision that everyone supports will last longer and lead to better cooperation in the future.
If you are unable to find a solution, the decision is yours. Always go for the team interest and choose the solution that leads to a successful team that can work together productively.
Is conflict in the workplace really your problem?
A conflict arises between colleagues in the workplace. The one is directly opposite the other. You as a manager look at it. Do you decide that it is not your problem? Would you prefer not to face the confrontation and do you expect that they will be able to resolve it among themselves? After all, they are adults…
It often goes wrong here. Because even though you have nothing to do with the conflict, a conflict in your environment is just as much your problem. An independent party can appease a conflict situation and resolve it peacefully.
Naturally, colleagues can also take on the role of independent parties. But you as a manager have more superiority. The fact that you are involved in it shows that this situation is not desirable and should not occur in the future. If you show that this disagreement can be resolved in a good and satisfactory manner, for both parties, then your employees will be more flexible in dealing with similar situations in the future.
A good conversation is enlightening. With the facts on the table, it often becomes clear that it should not have come that far. With an assertive approach, both parties will realize that they are actually not even as far apart as they thought. And that good, productive collaboration is no problem.
Workplace conflicts always work counter-productively. Learn how to time management commitment
Do you want peace to return to the workplace?
Looking in the opposite direction to a conflict is not an option. You are the one who can solve this situation well. Mixing in more people does not cause the fire to be fired further. With a good, assertive approach, the fire is extinguished, leaving room for an effective conversation.
Groups often form on the shop floor. Each group has its own culture and limits. This creates solidarity within the group. But it also ensures that collisions can occur with other groups that have a different perspective on the matter.
If conflicts arise between two groups, always look at the overarching goal. By focusing on this, their own ‘rules’ become secondary to the larger goal. As soon as they realize that they are both pursuing this goal, they see the possibilities of doing this together, instead of opposing each other.
Look for an overarching goal to bring the parties together again.
Prevent long-term conflicts
Some colleagues keep clashing. This may be due to different characters or disagreements. But often it is also because colleagues don’t know each other very well. Their opinion about each other is mainly based on assumptions. If something does not go well, it is easy to blame the other.
See also; safety in the workplace and how giving attention to this can help employees feel better at work together.
Colleagues who know each other better have more responsibility for each other and will work together more productively. Let colleagues get to know each other better in a casual way. This is possible during a Friday afternoon drink. But a team building day is also very suitable for this.
Are there employees who do not voluntarily approach each other, but who are regularly upset? Then use a third party.
Have these two employees work together on an assignment. “This assignment is very important and it is not the easiest customer, only with good cooperation it will be a success.” Now they have a joint mission where the third party demands all attention. This removes the focus on their problem. Together they have a new ‘problem’, a new goal.
As a supervisor, you naturally keep an eye on cooperation. With a bit of luck, these colleagues discover each other’s sides that they can appreciate and that make long-term, conflict-free cooperation possible.
An employee with fear of failure?
Effectively resolve conflicts in the workplace
You can direct as a manager. Don’t get manipulative. You are not supposed to try to bring employees together in an unnatural way.
Use existing situations or problems and put them there. Then it’s up to them to make it work. Together they are now the problem solvers.
From now on keep your eyes and ears open and listen carefully to disagreements in the workplace. Look for suitable ‘problems’ that you can have these parties solve and thereby prevent a complete team from being challenged by arguing colleagues.
Make sure you really take the leadership role, including the powerful body language and clear, assertive communication.
Consequences of conflicts in the workplace
Frequent conflicts in the workplace have far-reaching consequences. The good working atmosphere is hard to find. And it is not only the disputing colleagues who are affected. Tensions in a team affect all members. Long-term tensions bring a lot of stress.
Absenteeism is on the rise and the situation can even cause burnout complaints.
Long-term loss of an employee is never good for a company. Work remains in place, or other colleagues are at their desk, which means they too are in danger of getting overworked.
Happiness to a large extent determines how productive a department is. Happy employees put their shoulders to the wheel together. And there is nothing better for a manager than a motivated team that are all rowing in the same direction.
Are there a lot of tensions between employees and you don’t know how to solve this? Please contact us. We are happy to help you get a grip on the situation so that you can prevent from getting worse.
Milltain for organisations:
With the help of a team of experienced trainers, Milltain supports organisations in the prevention of stress and the (re) finding of work happiness in the workplace. A single burnout can easily cost an organisation € 70,000 (or more!)
In addition to financial suffering, the human suffering is great. Not only for the employee but also for close colleagues who have to deal with the blows. Before long, you find yourself in a negative vicious circle.
Get long-term absence and stress among employees under control with the help of our highly effective team training via Zoom or a similar tool.
This training has proven to be an international success for both managers (leadership skills) and employees (dealing with stress).