Most workplaces are a melting pot of people from different backgrounds with differing cultures, personalities, values, priorities and communication styles. When there are differences in opinions, beliefs and the way things are done, workplace conflict naturally arises. In fact, conflict in the workplace is inevitable. There’s no such thing as a workplace where everyone works in perfect harmony with no cause for tension between teammates. A good leader should have a well-developed conflict radar, being able to detect and address conflict and tension amongst staff before it escalates and impacts morale and productivity.
So much of the tension in the office is the result of misunderstandings, miscommunications, blurred guidelines; generally, from a lack of clarity around rules, procedures, roles, communication protocols etc. Here are four suggestions on reducing workplace conflict by attempting to bring more clarity to these things;
1. Review and revise rules and procedures
By clearly communicating the rules and regulations that define the boundaries to employee relationships everyone has more clarity around how they should conduct themselves and what is expected and acceptable from others. Sensitive cultural beliefs should be treated with respect by employees who don’t share them for example, in order to ensure staff get on with one another in a professional manner without disagreements in personal values and beliefs surfacing and impacting healthy working relations.
2. Set clear communication processes and procedures
Some people tend to use email as preferred communication method, while others favour meetings. Some people think nothing of shooting off a text or email after work hours while they are at home, while others like to leave work behind and ‘tune out’ until they are back at their desk the next morning. Tension can arise simply from a lack of understanding or misinterpretation of the actual medium to choose for specific types of communication. When the boundaries aren’t clear as to how quickly to respond, when to email and when to phone, when to catch someone off-guard and when to hold a meeting, tension arises through misunderstandings. One person might be feeling harassed, the other ignored. Misunderstandings arising from unclear communication protocols is one of the most common causes for workplace friction. By formalising communication processes and procedures you can quickly minimise, if not eliminate some of the more common yet unnecessary tensions between employees. Having a defined communication policy gives everyone a unified process to follow when it comes to communicating in a way that everyone is happy with. This lets people move forward in their communication knowing their chosen medium is appropriate and acceptable.
3. Add more clarity to Roles and Responsibilities
It can be highly stressful and cause a whole lot of unnecessary tension when two or more people are unclear of their and others’ specific roles and responsibilities. When there are blurred boundaries on roles and responsibilities tension can escalate very quickly. Leaders and managers can nip this in the bud by making it crystal clear to everyone in their team exactly what each person’s roles, expectations and actionable tasks are. This could be necessary to reiterate roles for each project undertaken if roles tend to fluctuate. Even when there are clear definitions around roles, this kind of misunderstanding can still pop up and managers need to intervene quickly to clarify to all parties.
3. Have an open-door communications policy
When there is a lack of open communication, workplace conflict can increase. By cultivating a work culture where open communication is welcomed and encouraged, workplace tension is reduced significantly. Encouraging regular meetings, face-to-face and written communication between leaders and employees helps to keep staff informed and defuses rumors and misunderstandings. Open and healthy channels of communication provide the opportunity for employees to get clarification on things and address any concerns they may have. Another great way to monitor workplace tensions is to introduce a formal process for communicating complaints regarding workplace issues. Companies that do this are likely to have less tension among staff than companies that don’t. And of course if you do have a formal complaints process in place, addressing problems as quickly as possible is paramount to reducing the likelihood of a full-blown conflict.
Removing tension from teams is vital for collaboration. These are just a few good ways to get rid of unnecessary conflict and pave the way for a more harmonious workplace. Give it a go.
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