No one enjoys conflict in the workplace, least of all the managers who have to deal with it. And the best way to deal with it is to minimize bad conflict through prevention.
“50% of employees say they accomplish less when dealing with an office related conflict, and 46% say they have thought about quitting.” – Forbes
Avoiding workplace conflict comes down to prevention or as the saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Managers need to stay ahead of conflict to keep it minimal.
Avoid Conflict With Culture
“The right tools for solving disputes within our community are precision instruments such as reason, communication, empathy, curiosity, and understanding. They are also the right tools for building a global civilization of peace and prosperity.” Paul K. Chappell
The same can be said about using culture in the workplace to avoid conflict.
It Starts With Hiring The Right People
Culture offers a major helping hand when it comes to conflict, by helping you shape the company through hires, and using guidelines, mantras, etc to establish how issues are handled.
For instance, if part of your company culture is to over communicate because you have a distributed team, you’d want to hire people that easily express themselves to ensure you won’t have friction later on.
Likewise, choosing people who at least appear to be open, understanding of emotion, and able to compromise, along with the other necessary characteristics that match your culture.
You’ll appreciate these soft skills when stress increases from deadlines or the team member is handling difficult personal issues (that often supersede conflict at work).
Culture isn’t just about hiring for certain qualities, it’s also about how management leads which can and should include guidelines for personal/professional growth, conflict among coworkers, humor (clean but necessary for a happy workplace), even Slack guidelines for tone, use of channels, etc.
“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” William James
It sounds tedious but taking action before there is a problem goes a long way in preventing conflict. There are a lot of tools and options for communication and task management on the market, and many companies put guidelines in place for Asana, Slack, Trello, Email, and Calendars.
**A special note for companies with remote/off location team members**
When Slack or email are the primary interaction tools for your team, tone is wildly important, as an off-the-cuff harmless message can easily be taken in the wrong context.
Ask your team to reread messages for tone before they send them and if they are feeling snarky to take a break or approach you for one-on-one time.
Avoid Conflict In The Workplace By Keeping The Pulse Of Your Team
A manager needs to know what their team is doing, and yet often doesn’t know enough to prevent conflict.
How many times in your management career has:
- A team member duplicated efforts?
- Someone been stuck on a task waiting for someone else?
- A project moved forward or been postponed without your knowledge?
- A project slowed in production because of team members butting heads?
- Important work fallen through the cracks because no one was responsible for it?
Managers often think their team is running smoothly until an occurrence of one of the issues above proves otherwise, and all hell breaks loose. Don’t let it happen to your team.
Stay Informed of Tasks, Projects, Obstacles & Emotions
The solution here is surprisingly simple; keep tabs on what is happening with your team. A tool like Jell, for daily standups, regular one-on-ones, and task/goal tracking allows a manager to stay informed and prevent conflict or other high-cost situations such as losing a client or employee because of internal chaos.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the importance of one-on-one meetings here for keeping the pulse on your team and their work. While the value of daily standups might speak for themselves, taking time to listen to, understand, and mentor each team member is even more important, so don’t overlook orundervalue these appointments.
We’ve put together 28 questions for you to use in your regular one-on-ones, you can download them as part of our 1-on-1 guide here.
Be Proactive In One-on-One Meetings
When you use these questions with our check-in meeting option before your one-on-one call, you and your team member set the agenda for your call. You both know what you’ll be talking about, and you can cover several areas more quickly for a solid, productive call.
Knowing if your team member is struggling by simply asking is paramount to avoiding conflict later on. If they are heavily stressed in their personal life, that leaks into work time. If they are conflicting with another team member, you can handle that before anything is blown out of proportion.
Open Your Ears, Close Your Mouth
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating; listen, especially in 1 on 1 meetings. When there is a conflict it is even more important to listen and let people involved feel heard. Like this article from SideRoad suggests, you can’t argue with feelings, you can understand them and show empathy, but only by listening first.
“Listen first. Give your opponents a chance to talk. Let them finish. Do not resist, defend or debate. This only raises barriers. Try to build bridges of understanding.” Dale Carnegie
Management is like maintaining a well-oiled machine. You have to put in the time to prevent issues through maintenance and things will run smoothly. But if you don’t take preventative measures you’ll be replacing parts, dealing with downtime, and juggling repairs.
Stay ahead of your team’s’ potential chaos by following the tips here. Honing your management skills is a must and will always yield more in return than fixing problems down the line.
Start your 14-day Jell trial now. When you love it we’ll charge $1-$2 per week for each employee on your team. That’s just $52 a year per employee to help stave off conflict and chaos.