Healthy conflict is a part of the growth of a team and a business. But the sort of conflict that comes from negativity and unresponsive personality clashes can do real and lasting damage to the work environment and the productivity of your projects. To effectively handle internal employee conflict, here are a few things you can do to nip problems in the bud.
Take a Step Back
If you need to step in to manage a conflict between team members, chances are both parties are already much too close to the problem to prevent it from becoming personal. Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do as a manager is tell them to take a break and cool down. Coming back to the conversation after emotions have had time to level off and employees have been able to look at the conflict from a different perspective can result in more productive conversation around the issue.
Keep It Professional
Work can be intrinsically personal, especially if an individual feels their job or their efforts are being attacked. Remind both parties they should address the issue as professionals and handle the problem as best they can on their own. Part of working with a team effectively is dealing with conflicts that naturally arise in a positive and collaborative manner. If they are having difficulty with that part of their job on a regular basis, it’s possible they are not the right fit for the position.
Be the Manager, Not the Mediator
Frankly, it shouldn’t be your job to mediate frequent conflicts between your employees. You should make it a point to tell the parties that such behavior is serious and very harmful to the effectiveness of the team and the overall company culture. Sometimes this means sitting them down as a manager and explaining to them why this can’t continue. Showing how serious the conflict is beyond any hurt feelings and clashing personalities will help employees realize there are bigger issues at play.
Separate as a Last Resort
If you have been unsuccessful in mediating through management, the last thing you can do is the conflicting co-workers. This can be done by moving them to different locations physically, and even to different work flows in terms of their daily activities. Reducing interaction will naturally reduce conflict. But keep in mind you count on your staff to do their job effectively with the team as a whole. You can’t send your workers to different corners of the office every time some one says something insensitive. Consider providing team-building activities and training to help your staff get along better and work more collaboratively in the long run.
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