Contrary to the popular phrase, ignorance is not bliss! Especially if you’re managing two workers who genuinely don’t get along. When employees dislike each other, their animosity can turn a healthy working space into a toxic environment. Coworker conflict is inevitable; you can’t be everyone’s best friend.
But you do need to be civil and able to work together. The longer the conflict continues, the more likely it is that productivity of the team is affected. Sooner or later, it needs to be remedied. Employees SHOULD take it into their own hands and deal with the situation in a mature and professional way, but the reality is that many adults feel that it’s acceptable to act like spoiled children at times in the workplace.
Perhaps they’re from different social circles or have differing backgrounds; it could be the way they do (or don’t do) their work; or something trivial, such as the sound of their voice or malodorous lunch they eat in your vicinity. Regardless, as the manager, IT’S YOUR JOB to manage.
6 Outcomes of Coworker Conflict
Once you're made aware of your employees not getting along it’s up to you to resolve it. Here are 6 possible outcomes of resolving conflict among coworkers:
- Both parties work out their differences, rise above, and move on.
- Both parties agree to disagree, but get past it and move on.
- Both parties say they’ve moved on, but one or both secretly harbors continued ill will. Negativity lurks, and performance soon begins to dip.
- One party sucks it up and acquiesces while the other seemingly “wins.” Conflict could continue.
- The “wrong” party won’t budge and needs to be removed from the department and possibly let go.
- The situation damages both workers and both leave.
You’ve probably encountered people in your personal or professional lives who always seem to be mired in drama, and have a knack for dragging others into their issues. If you think, “Here we go again” regarding one of the employees involved in the conflict, then that’s probably a sign that the person needs to change their attitude or be sacrificed.
A colleague recently told me the story of a manager he once worked for that reveled in intra-departmental friction among his team. He wanted employees to fight for his praise. He thought it made them more competitive against each other. My colleague described the situation as a “gladiator type experience in a modern-day arena, fighting to the death for the whim of their leaders.”
Unless you’re an athlete, work is not a sport, and employees should not be treated as pawns in your game.
Some may argue that creative tension among peers and coworkers can yield superior results due to the competition and rivalry that is formed. While this might be true on a project basis, it can easily establish a permanent “us-versus-them” culture that devolves into conflict. So what can you do to resolve coworker conflict? Remember, as no two people are the same, no two situations will be the same. Here are some ways to deal with feuding employees before coworker conflict gets out of control:
- Implement a team analysis assessment solution to help you identify the dynamics of your team and highlight areas that may become an issue. Solutions such as The Profiles Performance Indicator™ can help you reduce team conflict, improve communication, and improve a team’s ability to anticipate problems.
- Meet with the feuding coworkers to see if you can remedy the situation. Do this quickly to avoid letting it fester and spiral out of control.
- Alert your boss to the situation so that they’re not blindsided by any necessary disciplinary actions now or in the future.
- Involve HR as necessary, which could be as an independent mediator, to put difficult employees on notice or probation, or to begin the process of transferring the troublemakers to another department or location.
- Advocate an environment of respect, tolerance, and civility in the office.
- Maintain an open dialogue with your employees. Freely sharing information and updates on the company and department will quell the need for gossip and rumors.
- Review your policies on use of company email and social media sites. Some disgruntled employees will take their rants online, either within or outside of the company. Know your company’s electronic media policies and communicate them with all employees.
Source: Profiles International.