Between project delays, common human error and technology glitches, businesses can’t afford to have poor conflict management practices. On a bad day, a small remark can make a big dent in productivity. One word, phrase or change can set someone off.
How can leaders work toward a solution? Provide employees with the right feedback to help manage workplace conflicts with this 3-step process.
Appreciate Work Discrepancies
Even if you’ve completely nailed your hiring process, you have top notch, brag-worthy company culture, there will undoubtedly be workplace conflict. There are many types of learners, many ways to do certain tasks and many ways to communicate.
All of these different ways of learning and working opens up lots of doors for disagreements. In fact, workplace conflict is one of those strange blessings in disguise. How?
When employees bump heads, leaders can take this as a learning opportunity. You’re learning more about your employee’s processes and what works best for them when working on assignments. Use this as a leverage to better your approach for each employee.
“ Non-verbal behavior is just as important as what people say, so effective managers need to be keen observers to gauge how people are responding to a work situation at an emotional level.” – Josie Chun , Zahara Campbell-Avenell
Once you have a better understanding of how each employee absorbs and reacts, you can use a constructive approach to managing conflict. When you see bumps or accidents happen, remember timing is very important for effective impact. Take action by addressing issues as soon as evidence presents itself. As a leader, you have to remain unbiased and recognize each side of the conflict to come down to a fair conclusion.
As you’ve observed employees, you’ve likely noticed their unique differences, which will be used to solve conflict as such: “I know you both work better when leading projects. Let’s divide the project by section so each of you can own your own pieces and assign supporting tasks to each other if necessary.”
This lets employees understand your attention to their work styles and confronts tension constructively without crossing any boundaries.
Stop Before It Starts
Don’t wait for a workplace conflict to happen- use ongoing employee feedback to ensure any workplace conflicts are stopped before they even have a chance to start. The more you push off communicating with your team, the more boiling will occur.
You can’t predict the future, but you can touch base with employees on a weekly basis to get a feel for how things are turning. 42% of Millennials want feedback every week anyway- when you ask for weekly updates, ask if everything is running smoothly, if they’re having any bumps with the process or with the coworkers they’re collaborating with.
This keeps you abreast with not only each employee’s progress, but invites you to every side of the process. Maybe one employee will say, “Yep! Everything’s going great. We’re breezing through it.” But the next employee could say, “I’m getting a little burnt out from working overtime on this project.”
Here’s where leadership can step in without bringing in finger pointing. Change up the process, re-assign and realign the way the project is moving based on the feedback you received from employees.
Set aside one hour every week dedicated to touching base with department heads for progress updates. Make these meetings non-negotiable, make them quick, and send reminders to yourself and everyone involved.
It’s important to maintain professionalism when dealing with workplace conflict. The goal is to address any issues before it gets out of hand, diffuse quickly and come to a conclusion everyone can agree on with successful outcomes in mind. Bring employees back to home base by reminding them of company values. Remind them why they’re passionate about their work and what the company stands for.
Include a company value with each bit of employee feedback you provide. Gallup reported only 12% of employees surveyed “strongly agreed” their boss helps them set priorities at work. Perhaps you have a particular employee who you believe would really strive in a leadership position despite their introverted character. Give them a progress update saying what they’re doing well based on recent observations, but you’d like them to be more assertive with giving tasks to coworkers because you believe they’d handle it well.
Confront frequently with weekly employee feedback, realign based on observed patterns and conversations, and suggest new directions. Workplace conflict will bubble up every now and then, but use it as a learning process to improve the quality of work and overall productivity for future collaborations.