By Bill Swan, Principal Consultant
Wherever people gather there is the possibility of conflict to surface. The triggers and topics are as varied as can be. Politics, religions, culture differences, business decisions and strategies are some of the more common. As the global society has grown over the last few decades, the opportunities for conflict to enter the workplace has grown as well. It’s important for an employer to know what they can do to work with the inevitable. This post is meant to just help you get started to craft a workplace which can better deal with conflict.
Conflict gets expressed in many forms. Verbal and non-verbal communication, misunderstood communication, bullying, isolation, targeted decisions, harassment, and more, cause work disruption, effects productivity of teams and individuals, and can lead to absenteeism, performance problems, terminations, and litigation.
Employers should structure their environments to expect and welcome differing opinions and beliefs with a framework in which these can operate. These practices often involve:
- Policies, which are well written and training on best courses of action within them,
- Training managers and supervisors and continuing to invest in their management education,
- Having an internally advertised grievance mechanism process,
- Having good hiring practices so people aligning with the values are hired,
- Reaffirming the good behaviors with acknowledgement and praise,
- Welcoming and even encouraging different opinions and perspectives,
- Building diversity for differing backgrounds and experiences,
- Providing coaching, mentoring and education for all employees.
Strong employee relations build strong bonds between employer, managers, and employees, make for better environments to work with conflict, and help everyone perform their best. Where employee relations are strong, engagement will be too. Some elements which go into building strong relations and strengthen the organization’s ability to deal with conflict are:
- Practicing clear, honest, active-listening communications,
- Values such as good business ethics,
- Treating everyone with fairness and empathy,
- Surveying to stay on top of perceptions, beliefs, and experiences.
When dealing with serious conflicts which involve alleged discrimination or harassment, it is best to be speaking with your legal counsel as soon as possible. Watch for disruptions which impact other employees. It may be that conversations with some people need to take place in another setting. There are also specialists, as in DEI, who can help in specific areas.
If your organization could use some help in making your organization better structured and prepared to work with inner-conflicts, FIT HR would love to help. We have many experienced HR professionals ready to make your workplace a better place for all. Contact us!