Contrary to the popular phrase, ignorance is not bliss! This is especially true if you are managing two workers who genuinely do not get along. When employees dislike each other, their animosity can turn a healthy working space into a toxic work environment. Co-worker conflict is inevitable; you can’t be everyone’s best friend. But you do need to be civil and able to work together.

The longer the conflict continues, the more likely it is that the productivity of the team will be affected. Sooner or later, it needs to be remedied. Employees should take it into their own hands and deal with the situation in a mature and professional way, but the reality is that many adults feel that it is acceptable to act like spoiled children at times in the workplace. Once you are made aware of your employees not getting along it is up to you to help to resolve it.

Here are 6 possible outcomes of resolving conflict among coworkers:

  • Both parties work out their differences, rise above it, and move on.
  • Both parties agree to disagree, but get past it and move on.
  • Both parties say they have moved on, but one or both secretly harbours continued ill will. Negativity lurks, and performance soon begins to drop.
  • One party sucks it up and acquiesces while the other seemingly “wins.” The conflict could likely continue.
  • The “wrong” party won’t budge and needs to be removed from the department and possibly let go.
  • The situation damages both workers and both leave.

You have probably encountered people in your personal or professional life who always seem to be mired in drama, and have a knack for dragging others into their issues.  If you think, “Here we go again,” regarding one of the employees involved in the conflict, then that is probably a sign that the person needs to change their attitude or be let go.

A colleague recently told me the story of a manager he once worked for that revelled in intra-departmental friction among his team. He wanted employees to fight for his praise. He thought it made them more competitive against each other. My colleague described the situation as a “gladiator-type experience in a modern-day arena, fighting to the death for the whim of their leaders.”

Unless you’re an athlete, work is not a sport, and employees should not be treated as pawns in a game.

Some may argue that creative tension among peers and coworkers can yield superior results due to the competition and rivalry that is formed. While this might be true on a project basis, it can easily establish a permanent “us-versus-them” culture that devolves into conflict. So what can you do to resolve co-worker conflict? Remember, that no two people are the same, so no two situations will be the same.

Here are some ways to deal with feuding employees before the co-worker conflict gets out of control:

  • Implement a team analysis assessment solution to help you identify the dynamics of your team and highlight areas that may become an issue. Appropriate solutions can help you reduce team conflict, improve communication, and improve a team’s ability to anticipate problems.
  • Meet with the feuding coworkers to see if you can help to remedy the situation. Do this quickly, if possible, to avoid letting the situation fester and spiral out of control.
  • Alert your boss to the situation so that they are not blindsided by any necessary disciplinary actions necessary now or in the future.
  • Involve HR as necessary, which could be as an independent mediator, to put difficult employees on notice or probation, or to begin the process of transferring the troublemakers to another department, location, or out of the company.
  • Advocate for an environment of respect, tolerance, and civility in the workplace.
  • Maintain an open dialogue with your employees. Freely sharing information and updates on the company and the department will quell the need for gossip and rumours.
  • Review your policies on the use of company email and social media sites. Some disgruntled employees will take their rants online, either within or outside of the company. Know your company’s electronic media policies and communicate them to all employees.

If you follow the suggested approaches you will likely have fewer conflicts and more success in dealing with them.

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Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.
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