mind your business: Let’s All Get Along
Conflict in the workplace is a painful reality and a key reason for poor productivity and frustration. Are there people in your workplace who cause problems for everyone else? One point is clear—conflict does not magically disappear and only gets worse when ignored.
Certain types of workplace conflict are readily identified. Other forms of conflict may not be so easily detected. Negative attitudes, for example, occur repeatedly over time and can cause people to lash out at each other. In many cases, conflict occurs at the senior level. This requires some intervention.
What types of workplace conflict require intervention? Anything that disrupts the office, impacts productivity or poses a threat to other employees needs to be addressed. A manager may not feel it necessary to intervene when a minor exchange of words occurs between employees—unless this becomes a daily occurrence and expands beyond the employees initially involved. However, a situation where one employee threatens another requires immediate action. When handling conflict, some basic guidelines apply.
Understand the situation. Few situations are exactly as they seem. Before trying to settle the conflict, ensure you have investigated both sides of the issue.
Acknowledge the problem. I remember an exchange between two board members. One member was frustrated with the direction the organization was taking. He told the other, "Just don't worry about it. It isn't that important." Keep in mind what appears to be a small issue to you can be a major issue for another.
Be patient. Take time to evaluate all information. A hasteful decision does more harm than good when it turns out to be the wrong one and further alienates the individual(s) involved.
Avoid using coercion and intimidation. Emotional outbursts or coercing people may stop the problem temporarily, but odds are the problem eventually will resurface. At that point not only will you have the initial problem to handle, but also the angry feelings that have festered below the surface during the interim.