We're celebrating 10 Days of Membership! Today's Gift: Receive $20 to Amazon.com with a professional membership with promo 10DAYSAM
Training, policies and tools to help HR prevent and respond to harassment claims.
Is your employee handbook keeping up with the changing world of work? With SHRM's Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Develop your HR competencies and knowledge in-person in 12 U.S. cities or virtually.
#SHRM18 will expand your perspective – on your organization, on your career, and on the way you approach HR. Join us in Chicago June 17-20, 2018
Conflict is necessary for the health and survival of organizations, but unresolved workplace conflict can be toxic, according to a recent Employee Assistance Professionals Association webinar on “Managing Workplace Conflict.”
First reactions to workplace conflict are either to duck or fight, said Ronald H. Wean, webinar speaker and employee assistance program account manager for Employee Care, but “the mess of unresolved conflict deflects employees” from an organization’s mission and instead the “mission becomes individual survival.”
Unresolved conflict also politicizes the workplace, hastens the departure of talent and diverts time and energy from the organization’s mission to unraveling bigger problems that develop as a result of conflict, he said.
Wean urged employers to address the bigger questions that conflict raises, because conflict calls attention to a problem within the organization, tells it where to look and “starts a conversation,” he said.
A healthy work environment, he noted, is made up of people who communicate with respectful, non-offensive language; show tolerance and acceptance of differences within the workforce, and demonstrate respect for all individuals in the organization regardless of position, status or tenure.
During the hour-long July 24, 2008 webinar, Wean described five major types of workplace conflict:
But most conflicts ascribed to a personality clash are not really personality conflicts, according to Wean. “A true personality conflict is a diversity issue” in which a worker’s gender, age and belief system becomes the basis for the conflict, he said.
Start at the Source
Wean said conflict resolution should always begin at the lowest levels rather than going up the chain of command because going up the chain takes you away from where the conflict lies. The conflict “gets lost in a black hole” of a committee “that comes up with policies that are irrelevant and punitive to all employees,” he said.
“You always look at where the conflict is,” he said. Wean also suggested keeping conflict resolution policies and procedures separate from grievance procedures because the intent of each policy differs. “The nature of conflict resolution is to resolve the conflict,” he said, while the nature of grievances is winning.
Instead, supervisors should empower employees to resolve the conflict on their own. “Don’t say ‘don’t worry. I’ll handle it for you’. …You want to teach them how to fish, you don’t want to give them a fish,” Wean said.
Instead, “give them a fishing pole” by:
The manager of the immediate supervisor overseeing the conflict doesn’t need to know all the details of the conflict throughout the resolution process, but does need to know enough to ascertain how the supervisor helped resolve the conflict and if the conflict is systemic, Wean said.
If it’s a systemic problem, the manager may need to call a departmental meeting to get feedback and to empower department heads most affected by the conflict to find a resolution.
In that case, those department heads should be publicly thanked for their efforts when a resolution is found, Wean advised.
Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Your session has expired. Please log in again before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
Five key facts about High-energy visible (HEV) a.k.a. “blue light”
CA Resources at Your Fingertips
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 3,200 companies