It’s only natural that when a group of different personality types are cooped up together for eight hours a day, five days a week, that sooner or later a feud will break out. Even in the best of work environments, there’s no escaping that each individual has their own set of ambitions, principles and opinions, and that they won’t always match up with someone else’s.
Left unresolved, a workplace dispute can cause a toxic work environment that affects the whole team. When you’re constantly feeling caught in the middle of two warring colleagues, it can cause morale and productivity to plummet. From a major clash of egos to quarrelling over having the window open, it is impossible to eradicate conflict all together, but there are ways to prevent it from escalating.
Hear both sides
It might sound obvious, but speaking to the employees individually to hear their own perspectives on what happened will make them feel understood and respected, on a level playing field. Being able to put their own sides forward with only a neutral mediator present means they are more likely to be honest about what happened, rather than trying to shirk the blame. Encourage full transparency – hiding details could mean the actual root of the problem is skimmed over.
Get to the root of the problem
The only way to develop the right solution is to identify the real issue, as sometimes the root of the issue can be masquerading as something else. The argument might not necessarily stem from a workplace issue, it could be the product of interpersonal issues, but either way the main cause of the conflict needs to be identified in order for a solution to be proposed.
What would your employees like to come out of this? What are the means to solving the conflict? It’s not enough to just want to end the dispute – there needs to a clear outcome to reduce the chances of it happening again. Asking questions will encourage them to think about the bigger picture and how their conflict may affect their day-to-day working life.
It’s not always easy, but avoid taking sides. It may be interpreted as favouritism by other employees, which could damage your credibility. Remain impartial, even if your opinions align more with one party than the other. It’s also important to not get dragged into it on a personal level, as the aim should be to give employees autonomy to be able to work out their issues between themselves in the future.
Once everyone has talked it through, look at the situation objectively. Analyse how their different approaches and opinions could be used to complement each other, and how their strengths and weaknesses balance out. A critical step to resolving conflict is by rebuilding the rapport between the feuding employees. Ask them to find common ground by agreeing on small changes they can make between themselves to minimise the chances of the problem cropping up again in the future. From giving them more control over their working hours to allocating new responsibilities, the aim is to rebuild the fractured working relationship and restore optimum productivity in the workplace.