Common Workplace Conflict Scenarios & Resolution Strategies for Management
Dealing with workplace conflicts? Frustrated with the lack of resolution?
In any organization, conflicts, both major and minor, may arise. These conflicts can cause far-reaching negative effects on the people in your workplace.
Absenteeism, high turnover, poor productivity, and even violence can be a result of conflict and contention.
It’s important that these problems are handled with care. We’ve highlighted three examples of workplace conflict scenarios and conflict management techniques.
1 | Leadership Conflict
John has been the sales manager for over a year. His sales reports show an increase in sales and he seems to know how to motivate his reps pretty well.
But a few of the reps repeatedly complain about John’s management style. He tends to get very involved with their techniques, calls them out when he thinks they are making a mistake, and doesn’t take criticism himself very well.
One of the top producing reps complains more than the others, and he is threatening to quit.
Conflict Resolution Techniques for Leaders
First, it’s important to let the two employees resolve their conflicts without interference from Human Resources. But, if it becomes clear that unsupervised resolution isn’t likely, mediation is your next best step.
In mediation the needs of both employees should be acknowledged. Emotions make for difficult terrain in a workplace, so it’s best to empathize with all parties, making it clear that you will not take sides.
Once each person feels heard, there is a possibility they will be able to think more clearly about a solution.
Sometimes when we are angry we tend to be fatalistic and believe there is no possible way to resolve a conflict. Getting both employees to calm down and sees things with less emotion and more logic is the best first step to agreeing on a solution.
2 | Work Style Conflicts
Ashlee and James both work in accounting. James was hired a few months ago and Ashlee has been with the company for eight years.
James, while being a proficient worker, tends to wait until the last minute to get his work done. Ashlee works more steadily and keeps on top of her work daily. Ashlee complains that she feels she has to worry now about his work and her own. And, because they rely on each other for certain tasks, she is uncomfortable with waiting until an hour or so before a deadline when they are forced to collaborate.
Because of the conflict, James is missing more work and you suspect it’s because he wants to avoid Ashlee and her wrath.
Conflict Resolution Strategies for Co-Workers
Again, it’s important that, once these employees are forced to resolve their differences in mediation, you try to understand their feelings and make them feel heard.
If your accounting (or other) department is small and you can’t rearrange personnel easily, you may consider changing the structure of their work, making it so they don’t need to interact as much.
Working in silos is not ideal in most cases, but it’s a small compromise to keep your employees happy. Differences in work styles is an extremely common conflict, but it can generally be resolved with a little understanding and re-organization.
3 | Cultural Conflicts
Susan and Louise work in payroll. Susan is a devout Christian who always votes Republican and has religious figurines in her cubicle. Louise is a professed atheist and liberal who feels that extremely religious people are less intelligent.
Both women try to avoid discussing politics or religion, but they both know the other’s feelings on current events and at times there is palpable tension.
One day Susan comes to work wearing a shirt declaring support for a Republican candidate for political office, and Louise decides she has had enough. She feels this action is alienating and hostile.
She is threatening to not only quit, but to sue the company for allowing a hostile work environment.
Resolution Techniques for Cultural + Political Differences
Many times these kinds of conflicts can be resolved pre-emptively by having clear rules and boundaries in your employee manual.
Review of this manual once or twice a year will make people more aware and less inclined to encroach on company policy. Declarations of religious or political allegiance should be extremely controlled at any organization.
In the case of Susan and Louise, they were probably breaking some rules and not being held accountable for it early on. Now that the problem has reached a fever pitch, you are dealing with possible litigation, something that every company strives to avoid.
Giving both women the chance to air their grievances is your first step to resolution. This should be followed by a renewed commitment to following company policy when it comes to being respectful of others’ beliefs.
Both women should be assured that if they will keep their personal beliefs to themselves, they will be safe from recrimination and hostility. They should feel they have the support of the company in doing this.
Managing Workplace Conflict Before Issues Snowball
As you deal with interpersonal problems in your company, remember that ignoring a looming problem could cause it to become extremely difficult to manage.
However, there are some conflicts that will resolve on their own, and knowing which conflicts to get involved in is your unique and singular responsibility.
Treating employees with respect and empathy, however is always your first step in resolving common workplace conflicts.
Need advice from our HR experts at ManageStaff?
Give us a call to discuss the workplace issues you’re facing, and we’ll do our best to provide you with a solution.