How do I Deal with Workplace Conflict?
In any work environment, conflicts can and most likely will arise. Dealing with a workplace conflict can be as simple as talking it out or as complex as beginning a lawsuit; fortunately, many workplaces have workplace conflict resolution procedures in place to avoid escalation of a difficult situation. In order to effectively deal with a workplace conflict, it is important to first find out if the workplace has a policy in place to deal with such issues.
Some workplace conflict issues are more severe than others, which means some conflicts can be dealt with in a one-on-one fashion. But when it comes to safety issues, harassment, security, well-being of employees, or other more severe issues, the first step one should take is notifying a manager. Once management has been made aware of the situation, they are often required to document the situation and further explore the details and particulars. If the workplace conflict centers on sexual, verbal, or physical harassment, that manager may be required by company policy or by law to notify the proper authorities.
Other workplace conflict issues may be resolved with a simple e-mail or face-to-face conversation. Issues of etiquette, gossiping, or other relatively minor complaints may be diffused simply and effectively by politely confronting the people involved. A wise employee, however, will be certain to document the details of any such interactions in case the situation escalates. At the time, it may seem like a lot of effort for nothing, especially if the situation is resolved peacefully, but if the situation escalates, it is wise to be prepared.
Some workplaces have specific guidelines an employee must follow if a complaint arises. The employee should be certain to follow such protocols if they exist, so that every other avenue has been exhausted before more drastic measures — such as involving law enforcement — are taken. If a workplace conflict is extremely severe, or an employee feels physically threatened or in any way at risk of injury or death, both a manager and law enforcement should be notified immediately.
More often than not, however, what is necessary is strong mediation. A third party, whether it's a manager or another co-worker, may be the best option to ensure both parties can air their complaints and come to a meaningful resolution. The most important thing to remember about workplace conflict, however, is that compromise is almost always necessary to resolve the issue. Be prepared to plead your case, but also to make concessions so that all parties involved can agree upon a good course of action.
When the conflict can be dealt with peacefully, 99 percent of the employees will usually take care of it themselves. It's when the conflict cannot be resolved by the usual methods that the trouble starts.
Sometimes, an employee is just not willing to deal with the problem. I worked with a woman for 15 years who was moody, edgy, prone to outbursts, secretive about herself, but a busybody where everyone else was concerned, thin-skinned, paranoid and had a chip on her shoulder. She routinely alienated co-workers and customers alike, but management was afraid she would file a discrimination lawsuit if she were fired, and she probably would have.
For about three months after she left, I'd start if anyone came up behind me, fearful it was her. It's not a pleasant way to work.
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