Conflict in the workplace can be a nightmare for a business owner, not only do you have the usual day to day challenges to face, but now also a developing conflict amongst team members. Unchecked, this can quickly spiral out of control and not only harm the emotional well-being of your team, but also leave room for workloads to slide and projects to flounder.
Clearly, it’s necessary to step in, the question is, how?
We admit that it’s a tricky tightrope to walk, so we’re here to offer some solid advice on how to overcome this bump in the road.
Arrange a Meeting
Once you’ve spotted that there’s discontent between two (or more) of your team members, the very next step is to organise a meeting. Any hope you may have of things resolving themselves should be pushed aside, because although you may be right, you may also be wrong and things can quickly snowball into being a much larger problem.
It’s best to have a one to one meeting with each person initially, so that people feel comfortable in speaking their mind. But it’s fundamental at this stage also to make each person aware that you aren’t interested in taking sides, you simply want the facts.
Once you have spoken to those involved separately, you then need to move to a joint meeting.
Personal or Professional?
During the collective meeting, it is good to outline the issues as you understand them based on the one to one meetings you initially organised. Once you have established the issues and both parties agree on the problems you then need to consider how much the conflict is about a professional clash, or a personal one.
If it is a professional disagreement, in which the people involved have very different ideas on how to handle a task or resolve issues, then you need to get the people concerned to realise that they are both trying to achieve the same ends. With that in mind both need to come to a compromise in how to work together going forward.
More difficult, is if the conflict that has arisen is from a personality clash. It is imperative to stress that whilst you appreciate that not everyone will be best friends, you do expect people to be able to have a civil working relationship.
The meeting must end with an agreement on how to proceed amicably in the future. Discuss strategies and methods for overcoming the problems, whether that be agreeing to disagree or learning to communicate in a more positive manner.
It’s pivotal to keep an eye on how things develop after the solutions have been put forward. What’s said in meetings can quickly fall victim to old habits and you may find there is still a clear problem within your team. If this happens you need to make it very clear in the next meeting that the behaviour being displayed is not conductive to a happy office atmosphere or a successful business. Emphasize that you hope to see a change soon and encourage the people involved to discuss why the changes agreed upon haven’t helped.
If, however, there is clearly progress being made then make sure to let the people involved know that you’re pleased to see they have managed to overcome the obstacles in their relationship. Praise is the key to positively reinforce the continued amicable relationship.
Spotting it early and keeping tabs are the key when it comes to office conflict. It also ensures that conflict doesn’t develop into something more sinister like workplace bullying. Good people don’t want to have something festering with their colleagues and certainly don’t want their work to suffer for it, so if you can help facilitate the truce, most employees will do their best to make things work and move past the problems.