Workplace tension is unfortunately too common, and there are many reasons why it can develop in your office. Any time two or more individuals work together, conflict over many different things can arise. When this happens, tensions could escalate, and productivity could decline rapidly. Individuals may feel unhappy about their jobs, and some individuals may even resign because of a workplace conflict.

Employers and managers should quickly identify and deal with situations before they escalate, in order to keep them from negatively impacting productivity. The following five tips can help you to more effectively deal with workplace conflict in your office.

5 Tips for Managing Workplace Conflict

5 Tips for Managing Workplace Conflict and Building A Strong Team

Every conflict we face in life is rich with positive and negative potential. It can be a source of inspiration, enlightenment, learning, transformation, and growth-or rage, fear, shame, entrapment, and resistance. The choice is not up to our opponents, but to us, and our willingness to face and work through them.

– Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith

1. Establish clear guidelines

Your employee handbook should clearly define guidelines regarding acceptable behavior in the workplace. More than that, everyone should understand their job description as well as their scope of authority to complete tasks independently and with others as part of a team. There should be an established chain of command for getting questions answered as well as for dealing with conflicts.

Your employee handbook should identify behaviors and actions that are not tolerated. More than that, it should clarify what actions may be taken if employees violate these rules. For example, a first offence may result in the employee being written up. Even with these steps taken, conflict can still arise. Employees should understand the steps they need to take to report the conflict, and they should feel empowered to take specific steps on their own to prevent future conflicts from developing.

2. Create a positive environment

The managers, executives and owners in the company should be exceptional role models who display the ideal and expected behavior in the company at all times. You and your upper management team should always be positive and should actively work to mitigate conflict when possible. Employees should feel comfortable having a little fun at work, and professionally-appropriate humor should be welcomed. All communication should be positive and upbeat.

Remember that a negative environment or employees who feel overworked may result in productivity issues. This type of unpleasant work environment can also lead to dissatisfaction and increased turnover as well as to a rise in workplace conflicts. Always engage your team and show them positive ways to cooperate with others as well as to deal with minor issues before they turn into a major problem that has potentially more serious consequences.

3. Know what causes conflict

It is important to understand what commonly causes conflict so that you can identify small issues that may be brewing between different individuals in your office. Some individuals may feel stressed and unhappy when another person violates their personal space or when someone feels overworked. A seeming inequality in workloads or seeing other employees being favored can also contribute to a toxic workplace where disputes over job duties or issues with the quality of work being completed are a common occurrence.

Spend time regularly observing your team. Understand that your employees may not always talk to you about a pending issue, and you should be able to spot signs of an issue and bring it up in a positive way. By identifying issues early on, you can take the necessary steps to resolve the problem. For example, you may suggest a reasonable step that one employee can take to resolve an issue on his or her own so that the problem does not magnify.

Managing workplace conflict - open communication is key

4. Emphasize open communication

Communication is critical in a positive, productive work environment, and you can foster excellent communication in your workplace by taking a few steps. Rather than dictate instructions to your team, ask them for their cooperation and insight for projects. Openly accept their ideas and show gratitude for them. Ask your employees to come to you directly with conflicts that develop, and always give your employees constructive feedback regarding their work efforts, how to mitigate future conflicts, and more. Your team should feel comfortable discussing any situation with you.

Casual banter is also welcome at suitable times. For example, before a meeting starts, you can ask about your team’s weekend plans or thank individuals for specific contributions they have made. Formal positive communication is also advisable from time to time, such as formally recognizing a department’s extra efforts or a special honor that an individual or department received.

5. Get help from HR

If you have a mid-sized or larger company, you likely have a human resources department. Your employees should understand which human resources professionals they can turn to if they have an issue with a co-worker or a manager. Preventing and addressing workplace conflict is a critical function for a human resources department, and your HR team should be well-trained and properly educated about how to handle these issues.

You can set up an anonymous notification system so that HR can learn about developing issues in an unintimidating way. Your human resources team should also actively solicit your staff for their opinions and feedback. For example, surveys may be given so that employees can let upper management know about their feelings about the work environment, their workload, how employee reviews are handled, and more.

Final thoughts

Workplace conflict can fester into a major issue that negatively affects employee retention, job satisfaction, productivity and more. As you can see, there are steps that you can take on a regular basis to decrease workplace conflict as well as to identify issues early on. When you adopt these tips and follow this advice on a regular basis, you can create a more positive and productive work environment.