Can’t We All Get Along?: Action Needed To Avoid, Overcome Work Place Conflicts

August 15, 2016|

Tensions at the OfficeBy Jame Geathers

With the election season underway and current events in our nation, many employers are having to deal with office conflicts more than usual.

Whether it’s a difference of opinion or a personality conflict, discord in the workplace can bring even a thriving business to a complete standstill. As an employer, you want to respect freedom of speech and individual opinions but it can be challenging to know where to draw the line. While it can be challenging to keep the peace in other places, your business doesn’t have to be one of them.

Let’s look at two office conflict scenarios. First up, the supervisor and subordinate conflict.

In this situation you have an employee that is constantly butting heads with their immediate supervisor. This may be reflected in them constantly escalating their concerns above their manager’s head, failing to maintain acceptable attendance and even being argumentative/insubordinate with management. To make matters worse, the disgruntled employee will likely complain to coworkers, further spreading the negativity and lowering morale.

So what’s the best way to resolve this scenario?

For starters, your Human Resources team (or you) should sit down with the employee and their supervisor separately. Find the cause of the discord and determine if there are legitimate reasons for concern. If there are legitimate concerns, address those with the manager and help them to repair the situation. If the concerns are found to not be credible, the employee should be informed that their concerns have been investigated, the outcome of the investigation and held accountable for their behavior.

The second scenario would be an employee having conflict with another employee. Unfortunately, this is the most common and most difficult type of office conflict to resolve. In an ideal world, everyone would agree to disagree and current events would be no more than chit chat at lunchtime. However, that is not reality.

As an employer it is not realistic to expect all employees to share the same views and opinions but you absolutely should insist on respect in the work place. Whether you agree with the employee’s opinion or not, if they are being aggressive, insulting or badgering another employee because of a difference of opinion, you must intervene. Failing to address the behavior could lead to claims of harassment or even a hostile work environment and that is a headache you don’t need.

To resolve this type of conflict, have the instigator (or instigators) sit down with Human Resources (or you). Explain that while you respect their right to have an opinion, sharing it has disrupted the business and that is not acceptable. I would also suggest that the conversation be documented and added to their personnel file, just in case the problem persists. If you are unable to identify who the instigator(s) are, the best course of action would be to send a strongly worded email to all staff. Be sure to outline the behavior is unacceptable and avoid singling out specific employees.

Also, set the example. Be mindful of the conversations that you are having in the workplace. While you and the person you are speaking with may share the same views or have the ability to debate topics of the day without getting heated, many people do not.

If you have any questions regarding Human Resources best practices or policies, let us know!

Jame Geathers is a Human Resources and Operations Professional with more than 12 years of experience in both the corporate and non-profit sectors. Jame has spent her career building and supporting HR infrastructures that have provided her employers and clients with the structure and policies that all start-ups need but owners may not have time to create and implement. For more information please visit the Jame Geathers Consulting website, or call (706) 496-9691.

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