Colleagues – who’d have them?
At some point in our professional lives, we have to deal with people we just can’t seem to get along with. Maybe it’s because their emails come off as too sharp, maybe they have a different approach to tasks, or maybe they just aren’t your type of person – it’s normal to not get on swimmingly with everyone – but at work, it must be handled delicately.
When personalities clash, work suffers; stress levels skyrocket and morale plummets. This disruption doesn’t only impact the feuding colleagues; the whole team feels the effects of the water-cooler war. When a clash escalates too far, it can create a toxic work environment where nobody can bloom.
As a people manager, the chances of coming across conflict are multiplied, as is the importance of resolving it fairly, swiftly and professionally.
But how do you do it?
Read on as we set out our five-step solution to handling personality clashes in the workplace.
1. Foster good relationships
Prevention is always more effective than the cure, and by getting to know the people in your team as individuals you’ll be better placed to foster good relationships with your team and talk openly and honestly about any problems they may be facing.
You want to be your team member’s first port of call when they are having issues at work, even more so when the issues include other members of the team. By having an open and honest culture, you can anticipate any potential conflict within your team and move in to resolve it before it manifests.
Just by holding regular one-to-ones, you can create an environment in which people feel comfortable discussing any uncomfortable issues and solve them before they get out of hand.
2. Don’t shy away from conflict
Conflict should never be swept under the rug. You have a responsibility to your employees to acknowledge and address conflict, or risk putting your whole team’s wellbeing at stake.
If you have a particularly strong personality causing issues in a team who may be overly critical, have a short temper or is not pulling their weight, the rest of your team needs to know you are aware of how this could be affecting them.
Acknowledge disruptive behaviour in front of other team members with a simple “I can tell you’re feeling frustrated, let’s pick this up in our one-to-one”.
This sends a clear message to the rest of the team that you are aware of the issue and will be dealing with it, also creating a clear behavioural boundary.If you notice somebody else has been visibly affected by another’s behaviour, ensure this is discussed in private so that they know you take their happiness at work seriously.
Note: If you notice tension between two or members of your team, it is important to keep track of the confrontations and conversations you have from the beginning so that if you are not able to de-escalate, you can raise this to your supervisor or your HR department to mediate.
3. Use performance management
Performance management is a staple in most businesses and should be a positive, supportive process, ideal for early intervention and making each employee responsible for resolving conflict before you need to step in.
This is the ideal place for colleagues to raise issues, and for them to acknowledge how personality clashes may be affecting their own performance. This is the time to make it abundantly clear that you will monitor the situation and support where necessary, but hope that they will not allow it to affect their work.
If you manage performance proactively, you can avoid misunderstandings or conflict arising. You should make sure every individual is aware of their expectations, and set clear goals to avoid issues later.
4. Facilitate communication
If despite your best efforts, clashes rage on, be ready to facilitate. As soon as you observe the early signs of conflict such as inappropriate remarks or arguments, it is time to step up and step in.
Start by having an informal, one-to-one discussion with each of the individuals concerned. This will help you identify the root of the problem while giving you an opportunity to hear differing perspectives in a safe, confidential setting. Remain objective and avoid taking sides or making hasty judgements.
Once you’ve gained a clear understanding of the conflict, bring the parties together and act as an objective facilitator to find common ground. If you have a good working relationship with your team, this will be much easier.
Make sure you follow-up on any conversations you’ve had until both parties are happy, satisfied and have moved forward.
5. If all else fails, go the formal route
If you have made every effort to resolve the conflict to no avail, the last resort is to use formal procedures.
Although formal methods should only be used in cases where informal problem-solving has been unsuccessful, in serious cases of misconduct (E.G. Harassment, discrimination, bullying, physical intimidation etc.) you should refer to this sooner.
You will need to draw on your ability to handle conflict and resolution, and get support from other areas of your business. HR support is vital at this point, so seek appropriate support.
Ensure you follow employment regulations and allow colleagues to raise a grievance if they wish to. It is also up to you to intervene and take disciplinary action if it is necessary. When holding these conversations, invite them to be a part of the solution and listen to their ideas. Do not allow anger to escalate and make sure the safety of your employees is your top priority at all times.
At the HR Consultants, we offer conflict resolution support to ensure you’re following official guidance, practice and staying away from any costly people management mistakes.
We can work on a one-off project, retained or super-swift consultation basis, so you only pay for the support you need, bespoke to your business requirements.