Workplace conflicts are inevitable but it's important for managers to be prepared to anticipate, de-escalate or resolve these situations in order to maintain a healthy and productive work environment for all employees.
In the workplace, conflicts usually are of the following nature:
- conflicts of interest
- relational conflicts
- conflicts related to the work methodology
The first step to avoiding conflict is to create a healthy and inclusive work environment from the start. Managers must be clear about company expectations for behavior and communication, and ensure that these expectations are met at all levels. This includes defining clear policies on discrimination and harassment and proposing trainings on diversity and inclusion as well as effective communication.
Understand the origins of conflict within a team
The sources of problems within a team most often fall into one of these categories:
- A problem related to the team’s work
- An interpersonal problem
- An individual problem
Examples of team’s work issues include:
Overwork: Employees may feel overwhelmed by an excessive workload or increased pressure to achieve goals. This can lead to workplace malaise, burnout and reduced team productivity.
💡 Solution: Using a pulse-taking tool like Popwork makes it possible to take the pulse of each employee and assess teams’ mood and workload in real-time. The collected data will make it possible to defuse the situation by addressing the right topics and taking necessary actions.
Top-down pressure: Managers may face increased pressure from their hierarchy to achieve specific goals or results. This can lead to increased stress for managers and additional pressure on the team.
💡 Solution: As a manager, consider taking time for yourself and respecting your work-life balance. Surround yourself with the right people and do not hesitate to seek advice from your HR team in order to protect your team from the pressure you are under. Finally, a manager is a human being. Your team will be able to show empathy if you tell them that you are absorbed by subjects that make you less available but that you remain attentive to them.
Poor Results or Performance in Decline: Employees may experience a decline in performance for a variety of reasons. These reasons can be internal such as lack of training, lack of resources or lack of motivation. They can also simply be external: economic climate, competition, market changes, etc.
💡 Solution: Work with your people to identify underlying causes and find solutions to improve performance. Doing regular 1-to-1 check-ins with each member of your team will help you anticipate, identify and resolve the causes of these poor results. Do not hesitate to rely on a solution like Popwork to prepare, facilitate and follow up on effective and positive 1-to-1 meetings.
Interpersonal issues examples:
👉 Personality conflicts: Conflicts between team members can arise due to differences in opinions, work styles, communication, or personalities.
Solution: Managers should work with employees to resolve conflicts and foster open and constructive communication. It is therefore advisable to promote participatory management, making sure to take into account and value different opinions. Be careful to remain neutral and objective in these situations as taking sides will only make things worse. Leverage 1-to-1 meetings to discuss more deeply and play a mediating role when needed.
👉 Discriminated employees: Employees may feel harassed or discriminated against based on their gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation or disabilities.
Solution: Companies and their HR departments should ensure that clear policies on discrimination and harassment are in place and adhered to. These conflicts are always delicate to deal with and it is on these policies that managers can rely. Don’t forget that it is also important to make sure that employees know who to turn to or which processes exist if they are faced with such a situation.
Examples of individual issues that can lead to team conflict:
- Difficult co-worker: Employees may experience personal difficulties that affect their work, such as depression, anxiety, or personal issues. Managers need to be sensitive to these issues and work with employees to help them find solutions. Find our advice in the article “how to manage a difficult employee”.
- Demotivated collaborator: Employees can lack motivation for various reasons, lack of recognition, lack of challenge or lack of clarity on objectives. It is a key role for managers to motivate teams and keep them engaged. A demotivated employee can quickly rub off on his colleagues and his lack of commitment can have consequences on teamwork and quickly create frustration. It is essential to deal with this type of case without loss of time.
💡 Solution: Celebrate individual and collective victories regularly, if only by sending a team message at the end of the week to summarize achievements. With solutions such as Popwork, easily collect the achievements shared by your team members and define and facilitate clear and ambitious goals.
Create a transparent and healthy workspace
Managers must also be proactive in managing potential conflicts. This can include setting up open communication channels for employees to report any issues or concerns, resolving informal conflicts between colleagues before they become bigger issues, and mediating in the event of conflict.
When conflicts arise, managers must demonstrate professionalism and neutrality. It is important that they take the time to listen to the different parties and understand the underlying issues. Managers must work with employees to find solutions, while ensuring that company policies are followed.
In some cases, managers may need to take disciplinary action to resolve a conflict. However, it is important that these actions are taken fairly and consistently, in accordance with company policies and applicable laws.
Here are some conflict resolution methods:
👉 The 5 Whys method is a problem-solving method that consists of asking 5 times in a row the why question to identify the root causes of a problem. Example:
- Problem: There is a puddle of water on the floor.
- Why? The overhead pipe is leaking.
- Why? There is too much water pressure in the pipe.
- Why? There is a faulty control valve.
- Why? Control valves have not been tested.
- Why? Control valves are not on the maintenance schedule.
👉 The 8D process is a problem-solving method that is often used in manufacturing industries to solve complex problems. It consists of 8 steps to find the root cause of a problem, develop a solution, then implement and track it. The 8 steps are as follows:
- D1 : Plan the 8D process
- D2 : Describe the problem
- D3 : Identify and implement interim actions
- D4 : Identify the root causes
- D5 : Approve and implement permanent corrective actions
- D6 : Measure the effectiveness of permanent corrective actions
- D7 : Prevent recurrence by standardizing improvement actions
- D8 : Congratulate the team
👉 The 5 W methodology is a problem analysis method that consists of asking questions using the following words: Who, What, Where, When, Why. It is often used to help assess a problem or situation, identify relevant facts, and understand the relationships between them.
👉 The Ishikawa diagram, also known as the fishbone diagram or cause and effect diagram, is a graphical tool used to visualize cause and effect relationships between different factors that contribute to a problem. It consists of a backbone that represents the problem to be solved, with branches that represent contributing factors and their subcategories.
👉 The reframing meeting - or in the worst case scenario the disciplinary interview - is a type of meeting that aims to redirect a conversation or situation that has taken a wrong direction. It can be used to help resolve a conflict or to avoid a difficult situation. The goal is to change the perspective of those involved by changing the way they perceive the situation.
In conclusion, the key to anticipating, avoiding, defusing and resolving problems and conflicts within teams is open and honest communication. Managers should listen to employee concerns and work with them to find solutions. By creating a healthy work environment and adopting an appropriate managerial posture, managers can help prevent conflicts and maintain high productivity.