Navigating Co-Worker Conflicts

If you have ever been involved in a conflict with a coworker, then you know how infuriating and detrimental they can become. Unresolved conflicts can escalate and distance employees who are supposed to collaborate.

Conflicts in the workplace are unavoidable, but employees can learn how to resolve conflicts to prevent serious consequences of disagreements. Healthy interactions with coworkers make a workplace more efficient and inviting to new employees. To promote positive interactions, employees must remember proven ways to alleviate conflict and communicate openly and honestly.

The following sections explain some of the best ways to resolve conflict in the workplace. Additionally, the sections detail the problems employees and employers can encounter when conflicts remain unsettled. To be a decent coworker, you should listen to these methods of conflict resolution and apply them in your workplace when necessary.

Communicate

The main source of all conflicts is a lack of communication or a misunderstanding. No one will know how you feel unless you tell them, so be sure to communicate regularly with your coworkers and inform them on your current emotions. However, the act of communicating also requires attentive listening. While telling a coworker when you are upset is essential to resolving conflict, you must listen and respond to other employee’s thoughts and feelings as well. In doing so, you should avoid reacting to what your coworker is saying, interrupting him/her and assuming you understand his/her point of view immediately.

Although coworker conflicts can range in terms of their severity, the process of communicating with your coworkers stays the same. For instance, you should discuss your feelings about the conflict in person and consult an authority figure for supervision if you feel the situation could become violent or if the conversation needs to be recorded. A list of other recommendations you can use to facilitate communication with your coworkers is provided below:

  • Ensure you will not be disturbed while communicating by going to a quiet room or private area.
  • Do not confront your coworkers and, instead, explain your opinion about the conflict calmly and clearly.
  • Ask clarifying questions if you do not understand what your coworkers are trying to communicate.
  • Summarize the conflict and how you would like it to be resolved.
  • Wait until all of you agree on a potential solution to the conflict before leaving.

Establish Rules

Rules in a workplace are vital for the success of the employees and the development of a business or company. Though, rules also exist that pertain to employee behavior and disagreements. Examples of these rules are as follows:

  • Employees may not steal or remove company property or the property of their coworkers.
  • Employees may not fight or exercise violence of any kind within the workplace.
  • Employees may not use abusive or obscene language at coworkers.
  • Employees may not make false or hurtful statements about their coworkers.
  • Employees may not publicly disclose anyone’s personal information.

The list of examples is not exhaustive, and companies may be bound to other federal, state and local laws regarding employee rights. Other rules may be company-specific, but all these rules must be followed to protect and secure the safety and freedom of all employees, regardless of age, race or any other discriminating factors. If a company does not establish clear rules for its employees to follow, then settling conflicts in the workplace is more challenging. Consequently, rules should be in place before conflict arises to prevent conflicts from having unsafe results.

Involve Other Professionals

If coworkers cannot come to an understanding on their own, then you may need to reach out to the human resources (HR) department or other members of authority to help settle the dispute. In most companies, HR is responsible for integrating employees into the company and for safeguarding their satisfaction and comfort within the company. When rules have been violated or employees feel threatened or upset, HR can enforce the company’s laws and recommend termination or suspension when appropriate. Therefore, they are a great resource when managing coworker conflicts.

Brainstorm Solutions to the Conflict

Solving a coworker conflict takes a lot of preparation and respect, but each conflict requires a different resolution. Employees may find that simple solutions in which coworkers apologize and perform some team-building exercises is sufficient whereas others may discover harsher punishments are necessary. Possible conflict resolution plans employees may feature the following.

  • A written complaint submitted to a supervisor. If an employee conflict warrants a formal complaint letter, then the employee who wishes to report the conflict should explain, in writing, the parameters of the disagreement or incident.
  • A meeting to discuss the resolution. The meeting should consist of all the involved employees and a supervising employee or manager. This meeting should be planned and scheduled so that every participating member can attend.
  • A mutually acceptable solution. The meeting will conclude with a few possible solutions to the conflict. For instance, employees may decide that the conflict will be resolved once an employee apologizes for his/her actions, returns stolen property or endures company punishment.
  • Acknowledgement of the opportunity for an appeal. Recognition of an appeal is important because employees need to know that they can contest a decision they believe has been made erroneously against them. This will ensure employees are not wrongly or unjustly punished for the conflict.

Once a conflict resolution plan has been made, employees and managers must follow through with it and maintain a cooperative attitude.

The Importance of Resolving Conflicts in the Workplace

Coworker conflicts can create tension and reduce worker productivity. If coworkers are agreeable and make attempts to assist each other at work, then morale and efficiency would increase tremendously. Because all employees will have unique workstyles and opinions, resolving the conflicts that arise from those disparities can positively affect work performance and encourage employees to learn from the differing personalities. Whether informal or formal conflict management is imposed in a workplace, employees can benefit from overcoming disagreements and finding how to operate as a team rather than as individuals.

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