As managers we’d like everyone in our workplace to get along and for things to run smoothly. However, whenever you have a group of people working together there are bound to be occasional conflicts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Healthy conflict can often lead to better ways of making parts or other improvements.
Whether conflicts are healthy or unhealthy, it’s best to resolve them as quickly and painlessly as possible. These five tips can help you do just that.
Listen carefully. You or your supervisors should listen – without interrupting – as each party presents their side of the disagreement. Sometimes when they hear their own and the other person’s versions out loud, they recognize that a simple misunderstanding is at the root of the conflict, and the matter resolves itself. Otherwise, after listening quietly to both sides, you should ask clarifying questions until everyone has all of the facts straight. At this point you can suggest ways to move forward.
Treat everyone as an adult. There are times when these conflicts strike us as juvenile, and our tendency is to react accordingly. Anger and autocratic statements seldom work on our own children, and likely won’t be any more successful with our employees. Keep your cool and use your listening skills, even if you think the matter is petty and a waste of your time. Obviously it isn’t petty in the minds of the conflicted workers, so stay calm and carry on.
Keep an open mind. It’s just possible that the conflict is the result of one employee challenging the “way we’ve always done it” with a supervisor who isn’t keen on moving out of his or her comfort zone. In this case, you should consider the challenger’s point of view carefully or you may miss an opportunity for improving your process. Of course, if you agree with the new idea, you’ll want to make sure to do so in such a way that the supervisor doesn’t lose face.
Consider the personalities involved. Understanding what drives people to act as they do is a powerful tool you can use to resolve conflicts. For example, if you know that Bill takes comfort in understanding each step in a process, you can use a step-by-step approach to let him understand the other person’s point of view. You can learn much about people’s personalities through observation, but there are also personality profiling tools that can help you understand what motivates each of your employees, and how to help them work together in harmony. Some examples are Predictive Index.
Don’t suffer bullies gladly. Healthy conflict is one thing, but if you find you have a bona fide bully on your hands, you may need to take serious action. Employees who constantly try to push others around, are overly critical or just plain mean have no place in your shop. Document their behavior, find a qualified replacement and send them on their way.