How to Deal with Team Members who Don't Get Along

Throughout my working life, I have come across this many times, any business will have employees who don’t get along from time to time. Whether it’s because of differences in their personalities, lifestyles, opinions or some other factor, sometimes employees just don’t gel.

When this happens it affects everybody.

The resulting tension not only makes the office environment uncomfortable – it can also negatively impact your business’s productivity.

As a manager or a business owner, you are responsible for ensuring you have a  productive workplace. Ideally, employees and team members get along—after all, they are all adults, right? They should be able to work out their differences. Though in reality, it is quite common to find a workplace environment where employees are not getting along.

Forbes reports on research that indicates managers spend 30% of their time dealing with conflict in the workplace. And when there is conflict, employee satisfaction and productivity go down. In addition to that:

• 50% of employees report getting less work done when they are upset with a co-worker.

• 46% of employees have thought of quitting because of conflict.

• 37% of employees admit to being less committed to their work due to conflict.

The key for managers is to be on the lookout for conflict and deal with it as soon as possible. The earlier you can catch a situation of conflict, the easier it will be to diffuse tensions and find a solution that makes everyone happy when employees are not getting along. With this in mind, here are some steps you can take if you have employees that aren’t getting along.

Here are some tips to help you tactfully turn conflict into consensus between feuding employees:

1 Encourage Them to Work it Out on Their Own

Chances are, people will come to you fairly often with complaints. And many of these are going to be minor disagreements. So, when someone comes to you and you feel it is a small enough issue that you don’t need to be involved, the first thing to do is encourage them to work it out on their own.

Of course, you will have to judge the situation to determine how emotionally charged it is. You also have to remember that the majority of people don’t like confrontation. It may just be that the reason they came to you in the first place is so you can handle it for them and they don’t have to confront their co-worker on their own.

Make sure they feel comfortable enough approaching their co-worker and communicating with them directly.And if they aren’t sure what to say, help them work out the appropriate dialogue to ensure a smooth and healthy start to their conversation.

Chances are, people will come to you fairly often with complaints. And many of these are going to be minor disagreements. So, when someone comes to you and you feel it is a small enough issue that you don’t need to be involved, the first thing to do is encourage them to work it out on their own.

Of course, you will have to judge the situation to determine how emotionally charged it is. You also have to remember that the majority of people don’t like confrontation. It may just be that the reason they came to you in the first place is so you can handle it for them and they don’t have to confront their co-worker on their own.

Make sure they feel comfortable enough approaching their co-worker and communicating with them directly.And if they aren’t sure what to say, help them work out the appropriate dialogue to ensure a smooth and healthy start to their conversation.

2 Identify the Problem

Do not ignore the problem, whether it’s big or small, and if it’s bigger than a minor disagreement, then you need to address it quickly.

Examples of problems between employees can include:

• Office Gossip

• One employee not pulling their weight

• Unfair pay/promotion issues

• Favoritism

• Jealousy

• Perceived inequality

• Too much stress in the workplace

If you ignore the problem for too long, it will result in disruption for the whole team because other team members will most likely get pulled into the conflict. Even if they don’t get directly involved, it will still affect their work and the overall productivity of the team. Plus, depending on the issue, it could be something that could become a legal issue down the road.

3 Speak to the Employees Involved in the Conflict

When the conflict is too big to leave to those involved to work out on their own, you will need to step in. The first thing to do is ignore any office gossip. Depending on the situation, you might choose to speak to each of the involved employees individually, before speaking to them together. If there is a great deal of hostility, it might be better to start one-on-one, but either way, you want to hear both sides of the story.

At some point, however, both sides will have to come together to work out their differences. To do this, you should do the following:

• Express your appreciation for the employees and their working relationship.

• Let them know you are aware of a pattern of behaviour that is not productive. 

• Let each employee have uninterrupted time to tell the story from their perspective.

• Stay away from blaming language, such as “you never” or “you always” and encourage them to do the same.

• Work together to get to the root of the conflict.

 

To do the above you will need to…

4 Ask the Right Questions

You are meeting with your employees to mediate a resolution. And this means you have to get through to them. Asking the right kids of questions is the key to doing this. The first thing to do is ask questions that can help gauge what the employees’ feelings really are. Are they angry or disappointed? Do they feel threatened or frustrated? To do this, ask questions that focus on their emotional state.

Then direct questions to them that get them to consider the other party’s perspective or situation. Ask questions such as, “Why do you think she’s doing this?” Or, “What do you think is going on with him?” Discuss different theories so you can open their mind to different perspectives.

Finally, direct your questions toward a solution. Ask the employees involved what they personally can do to make the situation better. This is the beginning to working out a plan that everyone can agree on and implement in the workplace. Once this is done, you can encourage them to keep the lines of communication open between each other so that any further conflict is dealt with before it grows too big.

5 Put It in Writing

Make sure you document the conflict you are helping to resolve. If it was big enough for you to get involved, it is something that should be recorded. This way, you will have a history of the conflict, should it become an issue again. This will help you see if there is a pattern and whether one specific employee is at the root of more than one conflict. It also offers a measure of protection, should a disgruntled employee ever decide to escalate the situation to the level of the courts.

 

You can also provide a written copy of the agreement between your employees. Give them each a copy that they can refer to and that outlines the strategies you all have agreed on to mitigate the conflict and address any future issues. Ensure everyone involved approves of what is written in the agreement and that they are committed to following through.

People Are People … Even When Employees are Not Getting Along

No one is going to like or get along with everyone, and even when people get along, disagreements and emotional reactions will happen. However, being able to set aside personal differences and focus on the work at hand and the productivity of the team is of the utmost importance.

 

And above all, it is up to you to model the communication, conflict resolution, and conduct you expect from your employees. That means you need to interact with employees in the same way you expect them to interact with each other. Management sets the tone, so always be honest, respectful, and address problems head on.

This blog was Inspired by blog.boomr.com

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