If you’re an avid reader of business blogs or you have an entire library of books by moguls at home, you’re probably all too aware of the importance of having a fantastic team around you. Even the leading lights of the entrepreneurial world are dependent on others. When teams work well, there’s nothing better for a manager, but what happens when the mood sours, and there’s a negative atmosphere? Dealing with conflict is part and parcel of the job when you’re in charge, but that doesn’t make it any less daunting. If you’re desperate to keep conflict at bay, here are some of the most common causes of discrepancies and disagreements and some tips to help you nip problems in the bud.
The most common causes of workplace conflict
Sometimes, when you’ve got a group of people all working on the same project, there are personalities that simply don’t get along. If you’ve got strong characters mixed in with shy and retiring types, there may be clashes, or you may find that people with more extrovert personalities rub each other up the wrong way. It can be very difficult to manage groups where there are evident clashes, but it is possible to alleviate issues and prevent further problems. If you know that two people don’t get on well and there’s potential for heated discussions, eliminate the risks by separating them and giving them different projects to work on. If this isn’t a viable option, it’s worth trying to make the situation better by sitting those individuals down and giving them a platform to air their grievances and hopefully, find a way to move forward. If you tell somebody why you find it hard to work with them and vice versa, you can adapt the way you interact with others and learn from the feedback going forward.
How would you feel if you found out that somebody who was doing a very similar job to you was getting paid more? The answer is that you’d probably be angry and frustrated. If you’re the boss, you’re in charge of salary bands and wages, so make sure you’ve got a fair process in place. You can’t expect employees to be fine with the fact that others are getting more for doing the same job, and you should always be aware that people talk. The best thing to do is establish a level playing field from the outset. A difference in basic wages is not the only potential source of conflict. You may also find that your employees are angry about not being awarded a raise after a period of time. If you’ve been paying your team the same salary for years, you shouldn’t be surprised if people start to ask about opportunities to earn more. If you can’t compete with other firms, there’s nothing to stop your best employees seeking a better-paid job elsewhere.
Holidays and time off
Holidays and annual leave can be a headache for employers, especially if you find that several people want the same days off. As the boss, it’s essential to have a system in place, which dictates when people can ask for time off, how they do this and how decisions are made in the event of clashes. You should outline the procedures in the employee handbook and make sure everyone sticks to these guidelines. If you’ve got people asking you and you’re agreeing in the middle of a conversation, there’s every chance that you’re going to forget and this could lead to staffing issues. Take advantage of apps and programs like a free work schedule maker to keep an eye on your staffing levels and identify potential issues. If you’ve got an incredibly busy period, for example, group bookings at a restaurant over the festive period, you’ll need to ensure that you’ve got enough staff and you can do this by restricting time off. If you find that people want the same days off, make the decision-making process clear. Is it a case of first come, first served, do you prioritize requests from senior members of staff or do you make decisions based on the reason for taking time off? If everybody is aware of the criteria, they can submit requests accordingly.
Sometimes, employees may be aggrieved because they feel that others get preferential treatment. As a manager, you have to be fair and treat everybody the same. You shouldn’t be overly lenient with one person and incredibly strict with the next. Likewise, opportunities should be available to all. If you’re giving some members of staff access to training, for example, you’ll probably find that others ask why they’re not getting the same chances.
If you’re focusing on one goal and your colleague is aiming for something entirely different, this could result in conflict. The best approach is to set clear objectives from the outset and ensure that every team member understands the common goal. You don’t want people branching off during the process, as this could lead to delays and affect the quality of the end product. Get everyone together on a regular basis, make sure the main goals are clear and encourage open discussion.
Imagine sitting at your desk working through a list of jobs as long as your arm at the same time as a colleague next to you is texting their friends or checking social media. If you’ve got a packed schedule and other people don’t seem to be pulling their weight, you’re bound to be resentful. As the boss, it’s your duty to ensure that there’s a balance in the workplace. You shouldn’t expect one person to be in the office until 7pm every night if others are leaving as soon as the clock strikes 5pm.
There’s a notion that a consummate professional should never bring their personal life to work, but if you’re going through something, it’s hard to switch off. It’s human nature to try and hide your emotions and feelings, especially if you’re trying to hold it all together, but the slightest trigger can provoke a reaction, and that reaction may be completely out of character. If you’re struggling at home, you may be more irritable or snappy than usual, or you may be emotional, which makes it difficult to cope with the pressure of the workplace. As a manager, you may not have the abilities to read minds, but it pays to keep an eye on your employees and to tread carefully if you sense that things aren’t quite right. If you suspect that one of your team is finding life tough, ask to see them and have a chat with them. The last thing that person wants is to get into arguments at work, so try and make sure that they know that you are there to help. Giving them some time off or reducing their workload on a temporary basis may be a good idea.
Most bosses dread having to deal with conflict in the workplace. It can be difficult to manage clashing personalities or try and explain your decisions to people who are angry or upset. If you’ve got employees that don’t get on or there are people asking questions about their salary, their holidays or the way they are treated, it is best to act as quickly as possible. Establishing clear guidelines can often help to prevent miscommunication and confusion, and it pays to ensure that you’re being fair. Keep a close eye on your team, observe interactions, and try and intervene if you sense that there are underlying problems or that one of your employees is struggling.