Handling Conflict in the Workplace: What NOT to Do

Published: September 5, 2022 | Last Updated: April 23, 2024by Kent McGroarty

Knowing what to do when a conflict arises in a work environment is naturally important, but so is knowing what to avoid. If you are new to handling conflict in the workplace, allow the following guide to help you remember what not to do, which helps maintain a peaceful, harmonious, professional environment.

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Allowing the Conflict to “Get Loud” in Front of Other Coworkers

Sometimes, coworkers “get into it” in the office or other workplace, and subsequently create drama in front of other employees. This is considered highly unprofessional, especially to new employees who might not know what a typical work day entails yet. Any clients, suppliers, and affiliates on premise will not be impressed either. If you see a conversation between two or more employees heating up in a no-so-great way, intervene immediately. In a quiet voice, tell them to meet you in your office or another private space, such as an unused meeting room, to discuss the problem in detail. Once in the office or room, emphasize that such verbal altercations are not tolerated by the company.

Taking a Side

No matter how you might feel about a workplace issue personally, it is essential to maintain an objective perspective. It is not your job to take sides or favor one employee over the other, as it will not help you maintain a good reputation and can get back to managers or supervisors above you. Rather than getting accused of taking sides or playing favorites, make it clear that you want to hear what both parties have to say. Giving each individual your undivided attention and truly listening to what they are saying demonstrates your impartiality and dedication to uncovering the root of the issue.

Talking to Both Parties at Once…at Least Right Away

Trying to dive into the problem with both employees at the same time is generally not the best idea, especially if the conflict just occured. While escorting them out of the main office is warranted, it’s typically best to wait until everyone has cooled off before determining what caused the conflict and what can be done to solve it. Wait at least one business day before holding separate meetings and hearing the conflict story from all sides. Once you have the information you need, you can schedule a meeting with both team members simultaneously for mediation purposes. If you feel professional mediation is the best way to deal with the problem because employees will be more forthright, request services as soon as possible.

Ignoring the Problem

As with many things in life, ignoring the conflict will not make it go away. What it will do is heighten workplace tension and make an increasing number of employees uncomfortable. Gossip can spread, “sides” can form, and some people might consider quitting because the atmosphere has become so unprofessional and unhealthy. As unpleasant as handling conflict in the workplace can be, it is a necessary part of any business manager or leader’s job. Tackling the problem head-on and immediately makes it clear that maintaining a healthy office environment is a top priority that you take seriously. Your team and fellow managers will respect you more for it. You will also squelch any gossip and feel even better about going to work every day. So will your team, because they won’t dread the tension!

Handling conflict in the workplace is not fun, but it helps you develop better people and communication skills. Try to use every conflict as a learning experience to grow as a manager.

For more about handling workplace conflicts, please contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today!

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Kent McGroarty