Last month we discussed the increase of conflict in the workplace. Since then I have asked numerous people what the reason for this was in their world. I asked a mix of corporate and SME employees and Directors and these are the top 5 common themes:
- Lack of or very poor communication.
- Unclear expectations and boundaries in the workplace.
- Delayed or lack of feedback or robust performance reviews.
- Build up of anger and resentment.
- People prefer to avoid confrontation.
The last point is I think an important one. There are very few people who like confrontation. One thing I explain to my clients is, addressing poor performance, or providing feedback or reinforcing expectations doesn’t need to be a confrontation. Especially if you nip it in the bud early. And this is key.
Here are 10 tips to get you started and hopefully work towards preventing conflict in the workplace.
- Observe. Never have an accusation style conversation. The use of the word you can be confrontational. Highlighting what you are observing in their performance or behaviours and asking them to share their view can lead to better discussions. Talk to facts not what others are telling you or gossip etc. You must have done research to establish your own facts and have your own observations. If you are the facilitator of a conversation between others, you must ensure you are dealing in facts. This is important.
- Act Now. As soon as there is a sign between team members or between you and another, you must address the issue asap. Don’t let it fester. Like embers that are left to burn, they will ignite in time and the effort to put the flames out can be timely and also in some instances futile. Ensure both parties are given equal opportunity to speak and you must ensure you listen and take on board any feedback.
- Be Clear. Ensure that you, the leader is very clear in your communication and what you expect of others. Don’t leave things that are mandatory in your business or workplace open to interpretation. Be clear and very specific and take the time to ensure you explain the why behind what you are communicating.
- Feedback. Ensure you are providing timely and robust feedback to your team often. This can be weekly or at least monthly.
- Frequency. Ensure your performance reviews are held at least 6 monthly if not quarterly. People need to understand how they are performing to expectations real time and be given the opportunity to improve. Provide examples of good and poor performance. Doing this exercise yearly is pointless. You have no leg to stand on when you tell them their performance for the year has been poor and they say ‘why wasn’t I told’. Expecting people to just know is ignorant!
- Behaviours. Ensure behavioural expectations and boundaries are clear in the business and revisited often. These should be more important than performance in your business and this has a direct effect on your culture. A great exercise is to include your team in this and ask them to define what the behaviours are they would like to see in the workplace and what are not. Then reinforce these as a team effort. The engagement levels here can improve dramatically.
- Care. Remember you are dealing with a person with feelings and emotions and who doesn’t operate the same as you. So don’t expect them to. Come from an empathetic place and talk to the fact, don’t get emotional. People don’t have the same level of emotional intelligence as you do.
- Be Calm. Don’t have conversations when you are emotional. This will lead to a disastrous outcome in most situations. And you will more than likely say something you don’t really mean.
- Open Your Eyes. Take the time to observe your workplace and how your team are interacting. If you see something address it. Be aware of what is happening around you. The busy excuse won’t help you when things are going pear shaped.
- Be honest. Honesty is the best policy. Protecting people’s feelings isn’t as long as you are being calm, rational and empathetic. There is no point allowing someone to think they are performing or behaving in a way they aren’t. Be truthful and be timely.
These 10 pointers will go a long way in assisting you to prevent conflict in the workplace and deal with it accordingly. Remember, it doesn’t have to be confrontational. But a conversation needs to be had and you need to listen. Even if you don’t like what you are hearing!