Managing Conflict at Work: The Risk of Cliques

If you thought the days of the “in” crowd were left lingering in the high school cafeteria, your employed adult-self may be disappointed. Workplaces often experience their versions of cliques where certain team members create an impenetrable force, implying a social hierarchy that can certainly impede collaboration and productivity. Grouping up is a natural human instinct, but if cliques become intense and exclusive, it could make managing conflict at work a necessary leadership skill to have at the ready, especially if you’re the boss.

Managing Conflict at Work by Addressing Cliques

Office politics plague nearly every office. As long as you have multiple employees, managing conflict at work is built-in to leadership job descriptions. The biggest difference between an office clique and a run-of-the-mill work team is that members of the clique are linked together by some common interest beyond work, and they exclude others from their group, even if only subtly. Dealing with conflict in the workplace can become more difficult if there are firm lines dividing employees by status and inclusion, so start with these steps if you’re noticing cliques taking over your company culture:

Reward Inclusion

Joining a clique at work can give employees a sense of belonging, security, and identity. So find ways to help your employees achieve that in a way that’s more effective and inclusive to everyone. Create a company culture that’s cohesive and desirable, one where employees feel they can express themselves and mingle with folks in different roles. You can improve company culture by scheduling events that tap into collective interests, where inviting others to join is rewarded. That’s one way to learn how to handle employee conflict before it even starts.

Redistribute Team Members

Managing conflict at work sometimes requires playing a game of chess. Diversify the team members working on a particular project so that the same employees aren’t always working together. Doing this might also give you insight into where allegiances may lie so you can get a better understanding of where conflict is likely to erupt.

Encourage Feedback

Encourage your employees to provide feedback that will remain confidential. This can help you get a better sense of where interpersonal issues live on your team and get ahead of potential employee conflict resolution needs before they even arise.

Avoid Favoritism

When discussing important management skills, it’s important to assess your influence. How do you handle conflict at work? Do you contribute to the creation of cliques, even if inadvertently? These might be difficult questions to ask yourself, but it’s important to recognize any ways that you, as the manager, may be feeding workplace conflict. It’s important that managers avoid favoritism and treat their employees as equals so that power doesn’t intrinsically determine who’s most and least popular.

Give Your Team Skills

Whether it’s directly managing conflict at work or trying to avoid it by dissipating office politics, you can help arm your employees with the skills they need to manage uncomfortable interpersonal situations. Communication skills coaching may be a necessary thing to introduce to your team so that tension and disputes can be handled effectively rather than getting out of hand quickly.

If managing conflict at work has become too personal and hard to manage, don’t go it alone. Get support from unbiased professionals who can use their outside perspective to re-introduce professional boundaries and expectations when it comes to interpersonal conflict. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today to get the right kind of resolution for your workplace.

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