We would all like to believe that our working days are always going to be stress-free with everybody getting along with their employer and with each other and whilst we are generally able to enjoy a fairly harmonious time at work tensions will arise occasionally and it’s important that they are managed correctly before they get out of hand.
Even the coolest tempers can get frayed from time to time, especially when working with colleagues who are in close proximity to each other and it can be beneficial to get issues out into the open as it can mean action can then be taken which would, perhaps, further improve the working environment from the status quo beforehand.
But What Causes Conflict?There are countless reasons why conflict arises at work. One of the most common factors is where people feel undervalued in their role. Managers and staff are only too aware that feedback is a necessary part of determining how well an employee is performing and ways in which they might be able to improve performance.
Often, when feedback is given, the undervalued worker will perceive it as a direct personal criticism aimed solely at them which can be a common cause of conflict, so a good manager should try to ensure that their team feels secure and valued and to give them credit where credit’s due. That way, if managers do need to offer constructive advice, it will be taken as advice and not as criticism.
Heavy-handed authoritarian styles of management are also a common cause of conflict. None of us like being told what to do, especially mature adults, and managers who act like dictators end up being resented which not only has a negative impact upon the workforce but it isn’t good for business either.
Roles that are not clearly defined and poor communication about what needs to be done and when often causes resentment and low morale too.
Our personalities are all very different as well and whilst some of us will get things off our chests quite easily and amicably, others will bottle all their frustration up until it explodes all at once, causing conflict which is why it’s good to adopt a style whereby both staff and management regularly meet to discuss how things are going.
Even within teams themselves, there can often be a clash of personalities and this needs to be handled with care. A mutual respect that our views might be different to another person’s can avoid the possibility of confrontation.
Signs of Conflict EmergingWe’ve all, no doubt, experienced a situation whereby a co-worker or our manager has suddenly ‘lost it’ – in other words, all is quiet one moment, then, all of a sudden it’s as if World War 3 has broken out. Most people will react by saying, “I didn’t see that coming” but that’s often because we’re all too busy getting on with our own work and not worrying about anybody else but there are often signs that conflict or confrontation is not far away. These signs can include irritability, sarcastic remarks and a general feeling of anger, a reluctance to share information and an unwillingness to co-operate with others, a lackadaisical approach to tasks and an increase in the number of days a worker goes off sick.
Dealing With ConflictThere are a number of ways in which you can deal with confrontational issues but it’s important to remember that you might have to adopt variations of these in order to take the best approach as people are all different and how one person might react to the ‘solution’ may be very different from the next person.
Good Communication is the KeyTry to keep things in proportion and to try to resolve the situation in private and not in front of the rest of the staff. Stick to the issues at hand and don’t be sidetracked and keep personal issues and work issues separate. Try not to take sides and to listen to the parties involved first, letting each of them get their point of view across without interruption, before speaking yourself.
If you, yourself, have the grievance, and you think that something has been done badly, try not to simply criticise but to come up with ideas for how things might be done better. It may simply be that management have not thought about doing something in an alternative way before and they may very well reward you for your suggestions, as well as the workplace being a happier place in which to be.
It’s only natural that we can’t all get on with everybody we meet, much as we might like to. This is especially true in the working environment where we don’t get to choose who we work with, unlike choosing our friends. However, the key to this is compromise and, whilst we may not like a colleague very much, it’s often possible to at least respect their abilities and experience which often helps matters.