One of the biggest obstacles to successful workflows is office squabbles. When employees don’t get along, whether it is due to petty things or bigger issues, teamwork is compromised and trust disappears.
Although it is petty and often annoying, managers need to step in and squash disagreements and arguments in the office. In this article, we will provide suggestions on squashing office squabbles.
Create a Policy – Many supervisors find themselves in situations where staff members create conflict that suppresses effective workflow time and time again.
Although this is not foolproof, some managers actually include a section in the office handbook, stating that employee disagreements that interfere with productivity are not tolerated. Some managers even go as far as writing up workers for being quarrelsome and creating a negative work environment.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) recommends establishing a “clear discipline, grievance and dispute procedures for dealing with conflict.” An effective solution is to create a three strike rule where the first two times lead to warnings, and the third time leads to possible termination from employment. This will not affect individuals who experience a one-time issue with a colleague, but will hopefully stop those that thrive on creating conflict.
Teach Effective Communication – Many people experience conflict with others simply because they do not know how to effectively communicate. Whether the issues are due to gender, culture, or personal issues, knowing how to speak to others and resolve problems efficiently will certainly cut down on any office fights.
Therefore, some managers in the UK have been investing company funds into setting up courses or seminars that teach employees effective communication and conflict resolution.
Spending money on these courses will likely pay for itself when your staff is more productive and efficient, and not spending time on dealing with personal arguments during work time.
Step In – Many times, managers need to step in and resolve the office dispute. This is not always recommended, as people should be given time to try and solve their own issues, and not be led to believe that their boss is their teacher or parent. However, if they are not able to do so, and their problems are affecting work, the manager has no choice but to intervene.
Remember to act neutral and meet with each person individually first. Ask open-ended questions to get to the bottom of what each person’s grievance is. Try to refrain from passing judgment and to be sensitive to everyone’s feelings. After the individual meetings, set up a time for you and all parties involved to speak.
Explain to everyone involved the others’ feelings and opinions on the subject. Use hypotheticals to make the situation more neutral. If nothing works, remind the staff members that they are in a working environment, and need to resolve their issues so they don’t interfere with workflow.
Although stepping in to resolve office squabbles is not pleasant, it often has to be done to prevent full-scale, or physical, fights at the workplace. A good manager needs to be able to distinguish when the conflict is minimal and best left up to the workers to figure out themselves, or when the situation requires more attention.
Head of Training
Originally published: 28 January, 2015