Identify and Address Conflict Before it Happens- A Managers Guide

Identify and Address Conflict Before it Happens- A Managers Guide

  • Date: Tuesday 23rd May 2017
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A key skill most managers wish they had is the ability to spot conflict before it develops.  Whether bullying, arguments or cliques if left unchecked then small disagreements can soon escalate to division within your workforce, high turnover and unnecessary recruitment costs.


Prevention is better than trying to find a cure.  Here are seven steps to help you prevent workplace conflict before it gets out of hand.


1. Have regular check-ins:  This could be a weekly 1-2-1 or informal chats to hear employees’ worries which builds trust and encourages solutions over conflict.  Find a space that is confidential and encourage that everything will ‘stay in the room’ to put them at ease.


2. Encouraging good mental health: Offer training or online resources (there are plenty of great free ones) to give employees the tools to help them deal with any frustration, stress or anger issues, or improve their work/life balance so there is less chance of any skirmishes down the line.  


3. Watching for verbal cues: These may be the most obvious signs of a growing conflict but can be easy to misinterpret.  It is essential to observe rather than to take an accusatory position.  Repeated talk about drama, whispering or closed-door chats between colleagues can be signs of discontent, as can exclusion of a colleague at meetings and on email threads.  


4. Be aware of cliques: Everyone enjoys having work friends, but the flipside is that some may feel excluded. We cannot control workplace friendships, instead encourage a sense of involvement through after-work events, away days and workplace-wide meetings.


5. Looking out for absence: If someone’s taking lots of time off, it could be a sign of problems with their colleagues. Holding a 1-2-1 with the employee and inviting them to open up, off the record, to establish if there is anything else behind the absence that they need to tell you about (but be aware it may be due to personal issues). Their wellbeing should be the priority you do not need to know all the details of a personal issue.


6. Monitoring inefficiency: If you have a clear way to measure productivity and it is regularly down, this might paint a picture of dissatisfaction or frustration.  However consider any information in context with verbal cues or absence logs.


7. Keep an eye on social media: Chat programs like Slack and MS Teams are useful tools but can encourage gossip and unprofessional communication.  Even e-mail can be used inappropriately Remind everyone that these are official channels and re-issue your IT Policy to the team through a toolbox talk.  On Chat programs try assigning ‘moderator’ roles to managers, and lead the conversation topics yourself to make sure everyone is involved.


The key is to strike the right balance of trust and moderation with your employees and to monitor their wellbeing.


Source: HR Grapevine

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