Conflict Guidelines in the Workplace

The following are some practical suggestions for workplace conflict:

One person versus the team: This is usually a situation in which one person “loses control” when stressed. Over time, co-workers avoid giving feedback, fearing an angry reaction. The best results occur when the manager gets involved. The manager provides the missing feedback, lets the person know that he/she is having a negative impact on the team, and outlines a performance improvement plan.

The plan often includes webinars/seminars and visits for personalized education and coaching. Follow up with the manager is key, as are encouraging people to come back for additional coaching if needed.

Two individuals who can’t get along: Misunderstandings happen, negative assumptions are formed, and both people conclude that the other person is “not a team player.” They spend time talking to other co-workers about how difficult it is to work with him/her, avoid each other, and the conflict creates a negative environment for everyone.

In these cases, the best outcomes happen when a manager or other business leader invites an EA professional to facilitate and let the two people know that their current working relationship is not acceptable. Use a structured process that helps both people feel heard and understood, and provide coaching on feedback and listening skills as needed. Follow up by the manager is essential for success.

A team is fractured: Individuals can’t get along, the manager either makes mistakes in handling the situation or feels overwhelmed, and team productivity and morale hits an all-time low. When asked to facilitate these situations, it is usually only after higher levels in the organization and/or HR have been involved. Record what the team sees as the positives and negatives of the situation.

Then, outline a “desired state” for the team, listing positive behaviors and the resulting positive environment. The final step is for the team to create guidelines that will bring about an improved situation.

Instruction on how to listen or offer feedback may be necessary. Follow up is a shared responsibility among the team, the team leader, and the manager of that unit or department.

Source: Joan Murray, MBA. At the time of this writing, Joan was a development specialist at Concord Hospital in Concord, NH. Included in EA Report (Vol. 20, No. 8) Brown Bagger August 2017 (impact-publications.com)

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