Labor Pains: How to Resolve Workplace Conflict

Author: Gina Hall | September 4, 2016

Labor Day is a time to celebrate your staffers, but it can also give you a moment to reflect on building a cohesive team. Workplace conflict is frequently cited as a source of stress that affects your employees’ productivity. As your company grows, you’ll inevitably attract staffers with varying personalities and work styles. Your leadership will determine if office disagreements find a resolution or create a distraction.

Two team members could simply rub each other the wrong way, or maybe one person is simply slacking off. Workplace disagreements may not always devolve into shouting matches, but they can involve heated arguments. Sometimes, interpersonal resentments can fester until one person simply quits the company, leaving you short-staffed.

Here are a few tips on how to bring conflicts under control.

  1. Recognize the issue

    The first step to resolving conflict is to acknowledge that there is a problem. A good leader will tackle conflict head on. Is a single person causing strife? Is there a power struggle between two staffers? Pinpoint where your team is breaking down.

  2. Identify the cause of workplace conflict

    When tempers flare, it’s generally boils down to emotional or communication-based conflict. Emotional workplace conflict may involve a hot-headed staffer who deals with stress by lashing out. It might also surface as an employee who is overly sensitive to criticism.

    Communication-based workplace conflict arises when staffers have different expectations on how to relay information. Some workers may expect constant updates via email or meetings, while others may bristle at the thought of being micromanaged.

    Talking to those involved with the conflict will shine a light on the cause of the issue and help in seeking a solution.

  3. Set boundaries

    Intra-office strife is frequently the result of mismanaged expectations, so clarify office policies, job descriptions, and chain of command. Resolve which staffers answer to which superiors and provide guidelines for managers on what they’re allowed to delegate. Define when staffers can contact colleagues outside of office hours, if at all.

    Once you put rules in place, make sure to hold staffers accountable. Provide a standard procedure to lodge complaints that won’t result in hurt feelings or retaliation.

  4. Choose your battles

    If you’re the boss, steer clear of silly arguments. Is someone angry that the copier ran out of toner? Is accounting mad because someone forgot to turn in an expense report? Let those disagreements work themselves out between the parties involved. Your time is simply too precious to get bogged down in petty office politics.

    However, if the situation affects office procedures, talent retention, or has legal ramifications, it definitely deserves your attention. Make sure there’s a pipeline for employees to bring important issues to your attention.

  5. Heal the wounds

    Avoid scenarios where one side wins and the other loses. Let all staffers involved in a conflict find some way to save face. Each person should walk away from the conversation with a small win and an area to improve on. These people have to continue to work together as a team, so the quicker they can resolve their differences the stronger your workplace will be.

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