Wherever people coming from different backgrounds are thrown together every day, in a small space, expecting to work towards a single goal, you can expect conflict to crop up eventually, in one form or the other.
If you’re in a management position, then it falls on you to prevent or resolve conflicts among your subordinates – and here are some tips to help you do just that:
1. Establish clear standards of behavior. Many companies have handbooks, orientations, and bulletin boards that define in black and white what is acceptable behavior and what is not. “You’re not allowed to shout at anybody at work. No smoking or drinking in the office. Do not send unsolicited emails to colleagues…”
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that these reminders fall under common sense – for a lot of people, they don’t.
2. Stop conflict early. A good manager detects and handles conflicts while they are still brewing. Do not wait for the explosion. Keep an eye out for areas where extreme friction may arise among your subordinates, or even between your own subordinate and someone from another department. You may detect these in work emails. Observe lunch hour group dynamics. Listen to the gossip at the water cooler. It’s part of your job to do so.
3. Study individual motivations. Why is this person cooperative with the senior manager but rebellious towards the junior manager? Is this an issue of respect, a personal vendetta, jealousy, or something else? What motivates that person to create this conflict, and what will motivate them to change their ways?
Conflict resolution involves far more than listing down rules and penalties. It is a fine art that you need to carefully study and train for.
One book that may help you manage conflicts at work is “Working with Difficult People,” by corporate psychology expert Mark S. Eagle. This book is a treasure trove of advice on identifying, understanding, and dealing with difficult personalities at work. It will be a helpful and important part of your arsenal for combating workplace conflict.
“Working with Difficult People” is currently available in Kindle format at Amazon.com. Click on the link to preview the book or download your own copy.