How to avoid workplace conflict

There are occasions when conflict can be impossible to avoid. There are occasions when conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are ways in which conflict can be resolved, but it’s often best of you can avoid conflict completely, and certainly before it becomes toxic.

How to avoid conflict in the workplace

The first thing you need to know about conflict is that it’s nothing to be afraid of an is a perfectly normal part of everyday life – in itself, conflict isn’t an issue, the most important thing is how conflict is resolved.

Although the last thing any manager wants is conflict among employees – negative feelings can be a real drain on productivity, create a stressful atmosphere and cause all sorts of HR issues – there are those instances when work priorities and personalities simply rub each other up the wrong way.

If this looks like it could be an issue in your workplace, here are some ways you can prevent some bad feeling blowing into full blown conflict.

Let employees have fun

There a fine balance between making the workplace a fun environment and making it an unproductive one, but if you can get the balance right then there’s a good chance you’ll create a better atmosphere with less conflict. This doesn’t mean you have to buy a ping pong table or foist any forced fun upon people – although team-building activities in the office or as an away day can work wonders for morale – and just relaxing the dress code or making the office more open plan can contribute to a more fun and relaxed atmosphere.

Team-building exercises can also present a good opportunity to reinforce the company ethos, values and vision, and this can help to motivate employees and have them all pulling in the same direction. This, in turn, can help the make the workplace a happier environment with less triggers for conflict.

Employ the right staff

Most of us spend the best part of our day in work and will spend more time with work colleagues than friends and family, so it’s vital to make sure the right staff are employed to create a productive and harmonious atmosphere.

This means you need to employ the right staff, not just in terms of their experience, qualifications and suitability for the job, but also in their attitude and compatibility with the rest of the team.

Trust your staff

As a manager, it can sometime  be tempting to take on all the work yourself, but if you’ve entrusted employees to work on a project, don’t go in and trample all over their work by making amendments just because it’s not exactly to your liking. Trust your staff to do a good job and work with them on any amendments you make.

Similarly, offering work from home benefits can work wonders for productivity and staff morale, but you need to trust your staff and try to avoid micro-managing and checking in on them at every available opportunity. If you need to catch up with employees, it’s a good idea to call a meeting, so as not to give the impression that you’re targeting individuals, but need to check in on the group as a whole. The best way to catch up with remote worker is via conference call, here’s how can help.

Be positive

It helps to have a positive outlook in the workplace, both personally and professionally and you’ll often find that an upbeat demeanor rubs off on those around you. It also helps to be positive when giving feedback, as this ensures employees feel their work is being. If you do have to give any negative feedback, always try to top and tail it with positives.

What if conflict arises?

Unfortunately, conflict can sometimes be impossible to avoid, regardless of your best efforts. The important thing is that you’re aware of it and able to deal with it fairly and swiftly. So always try to get to the bottom of any conflict, questioning things like:

  •  Is it related to someone’s personal space?
  • Could it be over a work related task?
  • Is it a personality clash between two individuals?

Knowing what the conflict is about will give you an idea of how to handle the situation. Make your own observations; once you notice a conflict is disrupting the team’s efficiency and morale, you can start taking steps to resolve it.

It also helps to discuss matters with your HR department, if only to clarify your legal position and responsibilities, particularly in sensitive situations.

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