By Bond Collective Staff
As a manager or business owner, it’s important to be prepared to resolve conflict in the workplace. If you aren’t prepared, conflict can quickly become toxic and spread to other members of your team and other parts of your business.
That can lead to decreased productivity and motivation, a breakdown in communication, and disunity within your team.
In this article, we discuss how to prevent conflict in the workplace and how to resolve it if it rears its ugly head.
How To Prevent Conflict In The Workplace
The best way to prevent conflict in the workplace before it causes problems for your business is to avoid hiring employees that don’t fit into your company culture.
That may seem obvious right now, but during the interview process, it’s all too easy to overlook red flags that may signal future conflict and allow an interviewee’s good qualities to overshadow everything else.
Fortunately, there’s another way you can prevent issues right from the start. Before employees have a chance to disrupt your team’s workflow, implement an onboarding process and continuous on-the-job training.
With effective onboarding, training, and advancement opportunities, you can provide a sense of accomplishment for all of your employees — not just those who incite conflict — that translates into more skills, better preparation, and a happy, engaged team.
For more information on managing a team that is resistant to conflict in the workplace, take a few minutes to read these helpful articles:
Recognizing The Potential For Conflict
Most conflict in the workplace tracks back to one or two individuals who — perhaps without even realizing — contributed to the discord in your office.
Typically, it starts when an employee develops a sense of dissatisfaction with their job. From there, the dissatisfaction can grow and possibly spread until it’s infected your entire team.
If your team’s productivity decreases for no apparent reason or you notice more friction between team members than usual, you may have a dissatisfied employee in your midst.
What’s a manager to do?
In the next two sections, we’ll discuss how to identify a dissatisfied employee through the signs that might lead to conflict in the workplace. We’ll also discuss how to handle the individual who might be the cause without disrupting your entire business.
How To Identify A Dissatisfied Employee
Identifying a dissatisfied employee — and preventing conflict in the workplace from rearing its ugly head — is about reading certain behavioral signs and then taking steps to improve the way an individual works.
The methods we outline below are great by themselves but work even better in tandem to identify dissatisfied employees before they become a problem.
So, rather than relying on one method, incorporate them all for a more accurate picture of your employees’ job satisfaction.
1) Make Note Of A Chronic Bad Attitude
One sure sign of a dissatisfied employee who may eventually foment conflict in the workplace is a chronic bad attitude.
While a bad attitude can take many forms, the main indicators include:
Decrease in performance quality
Lack of participation
Resistant to collaborating
While it’s true that everyone has a bad day now and then, if you see a consistent upward trend in these behaviors, discuss the issue face-to-face and see if there’s anything you can do to help the employee improve.
2) Track Employee Absences
Higher than normal absences are another sign that an employee is dissatisfied with their job and may be on the verge of causing conflict in the workplace.
Yes, there could be extenuating circumstances that necessitate more time off — family issues, illness, conflicts in their schedule, etc. — but if there’s no apparent reason for the absences, the employee could be dealing with some job-related issues that need your attention.
Even before an employee starts taking days off, other signs may indicate that they’re slightly unhappy with the way things are going in their job.
These signs include:
Again, one or two instances does not a trend make, but if you see a number of these signs over the course of a month or two, sit down with the employee and find out what’s going on.
3) Consider Negative Feedback From Other Team Members
When a team member is dissatisfied with their job, one of the first indicators is them having a hard time getting along with coworkers. This will usually express itself as negative feedback from others.
If you start to receive negative feedback about a certain employee, it’s important to remember that the problem has already been going on for a while (coworkers aren’t going to give negative feedback immediately).
Therefore, don’t delay. Address the issue as soon as possible so it doesn’t spread any further and decrease the job satisfaction of other team members.
4) Conduct Frequent Performance Reviews
Another early sign that an employee is dissatisfied with their job is a decrease in performance that doesn’t return to “normal” levels.
As with the other signs we’ve discussed, a temporary dip in productivity followed by a return to previous levels is not something to be worried about (unless it happens a lot). But if the quality of an employee’s work goes down and stays there, it’s time to take action.
How are you going to know when this happens? With frequent performance reviews.
Some companies conduct performance reviews once a year. That, however, is not often enough to do any good when it comes to preventing conflict in the workplace.
For a more accurate picture of how everyone on your team is working together, carry out business-wide performance reviews every six months or, better still, every three months.
If this seems like a lot, consider that performance reviews act like a vaccine in that they help keep the body (your team) healthy, improve resistance to infection, and keep everything operating at peak potential.
How To Handle A Dissatisfied Employee
Once you’ve identified a dissatisfied employee, here are some solutions to help prevent the bad attitude from causing conflict in the workplace.
1) Keep An Open Line Of Communication
Keep a line of communication open between you and the employee in question so that they feel comfortable coming to you with any problems they’re having.
This is good advice for all of your employees whether they’re dissatisfied or not. When you talk with your team members individually every day, you’ll be in a better position to give them what they need to stay engaged.
You’ll also be in a better position to prevent them from becoming dissatisfied with their job and causing conflict in the workplace with another coworker.
When conflict does develop, it often takes a lot of time, effort, and money to fix. But if you communicate with your employees every day, that little bit of time goes a long way toward keeping your team happy and successful.
2) Be There For Them
Sometimes, all a dissatisfied employee needs is someone to talk to about their problems. They’re not necessarily looking for a solution; they just need to unload.
Encourage them to come talk to you about their problems or arrange for a neutral third party if that makes the employee feel more comfortable.
It may not seem like much, but the simple act of talking things out is sometimes enough to return an employee’s attitude back to what it was before.
3) Show Them You’re On Their Side
The dissatisfied employee often knows that they are dissatisfied — at least on some level — and they may be worried about how these feelings will affect their job.
That insecurity can drive them even further into dissatisfaction and eventually cause conflict in the office.
Once you’ve identified an employee who is suffering on the job, sit them down, tell them you want to help, and show them that you’re on their side.
Expressing your confidence in their abilities — along with the other suggestions in this section — can give the employee the motivation to find joy in their job again.
4) Give Employees The Training They Need
In many cases, employees begin to feel dissatisfied because they aren’t confident in some aspect of their job or their performance.
To remedy that lack of confidence, provide plenty of training opportunities to help your team develop their skills and improve in their job.
Effective options include:
This training also has the added benefit of putting your employees on track for the next way you can handle a dissatisfied employee and prevent conflict in the workplace.
5) Facilitate Career Advancement
For employees of all types, career advancement is a big part of maintaining a sense of job satisfaction. No one wants to feel like their chosen field has become stagnant and all their effort is for naught.
Career advancement — striving for a goal of some sort — provides a sense of accomplishment and “movement” (vs. stagnation) that can work wonders on an employee’s job satisfaction.
That doesn’t mean you give a dissatisfied employee a promotion or a new job title right away. They still need to prove themselves and their skill.
You can, however, challenge them with a new assignment, slightly different responsibilities, or even a supervisory role to help them stretch and grow.
If this process of identifying and dealing with a dissatisfied employee is new to your business, don’t feel that you have to implement all the options in the lists above right away.
Start with one or two of the suggestions and see how they work for your team and your business. Once those have become an easy part of your workflow, choose one or two more and practice them until they’re business as usual.
Continue in this manner until you’re able to identify and handle dissatisfied employees before they cause conflict in the workplace.
Sometimes, though, despite your best efforts, conflict does develop between two or more coworkers. When that happens, you’ll need strategies for resolving the issue before it gets any worse.
How To Resolve Conflict In The Workplace
1) Don’t Delay
Address conflict in the workplace as soon as possible. Putting it off for whatever reason gives the issue a chance to spread into every corner of your business and cause a lot of damage to your team's unity.
Delaying how and when you deal with conflict also sends the message to your employees that this type of behavior is tolerated. This can have long-term consequences for the way your employees work together.
While you may not be able to resolve the conflict right away, speak to everyone on your team and let them know that what is happening is detrimental to the business and that you are in the process of dealing with the issue.
2) Look For The Cause Of The Conflict
When two or more employees generate conflict in the workplace, it’s not because they’re difficult by nature. If they were, you wouldn’t have hired them.
All too often, an employee acts out because of something going on in their life. It could be that the employee is:
Unhappy in their job
Frustrated with coworkers
Grappling with employee burnout
Dealing with personal issues
When you identify the underlying cause of their behavior, you can take steps to help the employees involved and remedy the underlying issue as much as possible.
3) Gather All The Facts
When it comes to resolving conflict in the workplace, avoid relying solely on one person’s perspective.
It’s essential to gather all the facts and investigate all sides of the problem in question. That may mean interviewing other employees — and possibly even customers or clients — to get to the bottom of what happened.
4) Meet With Both Parties In Private
When conflict in the workplace first comes to light, talk with the employees on each side of the issue in private. Never discuss problems in front of other team members.
Invite one employee into your office to discuss their side of the story. Then invite the other employee into your office to discuss their side.
After that, bring both parties together — in private — to try to resolve the problems between them.
Here’s an important consideration: when meeting with the employees (both separately and together), be sure to include a witness — a supervisor, someone from HR, etc. — who can corroborate what you and they say.
5) Keep The Atmosphere Positive
When you meet with employees about a conflict in the workplace, do your best to keep the atmosphere positive.
Try not to convey the message that their job could be on the line if they can’t find a solution to their problems. That only adds to the employees’ stress and could make the situation worse.
6) Express Your Trust
The employees on both sides of conflict need to know that you trust them to get through whatever is causing their disagreement. That’s why it’s essential to tell them this directly.
When your employees feel trusted — both in dealing with their conflict and in their everyday work — they’re more likely to be engaged in doing the best they can.
7) Consider Counseling
Sometimes, all that’s needed to get two team members back on track is to give them the opportunity to talk out their issues in a calm and supportive environment.
To do this, you can meet with the employees yourself or provide access to a professional counselor. Even the simple act of venting their frustration and being heard can have a profound impact on their attitude.
8) Dole Out Discipline If Necessary
Figuring out whether or not discipline is necessary for conflict in the workplace is tricky.
If a clear misconduct was the cause of the issue, you may decide to penalize an employee a day’s wages, suspend them for a time, or reassign them to a different job.
You could also try:
Setting up a performance-improvement plan
Giving them a mental health day
Requiring them to take some type of on-the-job training
Whatever method you choose, make sure the employee discipline is commensurate with the misconduct.
9) Follow Up
After your initial meeting or meetings, follow up with your employees to see how things are going. This serves two purposes:
It makes the employees feel like valued members of the team
It helps you see if any corrective measures you suggested are working
Now that you’ve addressed the cause of this conflict in the workplace, following up helps you and the employees identify whether further measures are necessary.
10) Communicate Regularly
When it comes to workplace conflict, the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” certainly applies.
The prevention in question is communication.
When you speak with your employees on a regular basis (sometimes daily), you can give them what they need to stay motivated and productive, thus preventing conflicts from growing divisive in the first place.
Prevent Conflict With The Right Workspace
Conflict in the workplace can happen anywhere, any time. But you can take steps to prevent it from happening by providing the right workspace for your team.
Work environments have evolved significantly in recent years as more and more entrepreneurs and startups move online and into digital offerings. Despite this change in how and where we work, one thing remains the same: people.
Your employees are the one true constant in your business, so you should give them what they need to do their best work, including:
The right tools
Without these variables, their performance suffers, they feel stressed, and conflict becomes a very real possibility.
How can you provide all of these essentials without locking yourself into a long-term lease — that won’t grow and evolve with your business — and without burning through all of your hard-earned capital?
By basing your team in a coworking space, like Bond Collective.
Bond Collective offers thoughtfully curated boutique work environments that provide an unmatched experience for you and your employees. From unique and inspiring design to comfort and efficiency, Bond Collective has everything covered.
We even offer industry-leading amenities, including:
Fast, reliable WiFi and Ethernet connections
Unlimited black-and-white printing
Mail and package handling
Private meeting and phone booths
Guest reception and greeting
Daily porter service
Nightly office cleaning
Take advantage of all that Bond Collective has to offer to help you work smart and prevent conflict in the workplace.
Visit any one of Bond Collective’s many locations in the United States, including workspaces in New York, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Illinois, Tennessee, and Texas. Or call us today to find out more about everything we have to offer.
And while you’re at it, schedule a tour to experience first-hand how the boutique work environments at Bond Collective can benefit your business.