QS Community Board

Work Life & Safety October 25, 2018

Keeping It Civil: A Leader's Guide to Managing Workplace Conflict

Maggie K., Senior Editor

Workplace conflict happens in every organization. Whether it’s between coworkers, managers, or a boss and an employee, issues are bound to arise when so many different people – with different opinions – work together day in and day out.

That being said, managers have an important responsibility to cultivate a civil, respectful workplace – an environment in which employees settle disputes in a constructive, cordial way.

Wiping Out Workplace Conflict

Workplace conflict can cause high employee turnover, poor productivity, stress and health costs. Because a healthy, productive workforce is best, there are some ways in which leaders can best manage workplace conflict and promote civility on the job:

  • Create, communicate and enforce policies regarding civil behavior in the workplace.
  • Provide continuous education and training on civility.
  • Practice regular self-assessments.
  • Increase accountability and transparency in the organization.
  • Communicate a positive attitude toward implementing necessary changes.

It can be hard for people to control their emotions when something is angering or stressing them. To avoid conflict, you can encourage employees to:

  • Change their perception of the problem. Help them see that not everything is a personal attack.
  • Keep their cool. Remind them to always be aware of their emotions at work, and to never confront anyone when angry.
  • Get along with others. Strategies include avoiding gossip, being polite and courteous, praising coworkers on jobs well done and not criticizing others.

A Leader’s Responsibilities

How employees deal with conflict starts with their trust and respect in leadership. The following tips can help leaders proactively create a positive work culture and a team-oriented, conflict-free work environment:

  • Set clear expectations of employee behavior standards.
  • Lead by example: Treat employees, peers and superiors with respect.
  • Never play favorites when dealing with employees.
  • Praise employees in public on a job well done. Never point out an employee’s mistakes in front of others.
  • Do not overreact to mistakes. Instead, help employees understand how they can improve.

If nothing helps deescalate a situation, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) might be a good option for the employees involved in the conflict.

Let’s All Get Along

Managers and supervisors can serve as an employer’s most valuable resource in preventing and stopping workplace conflict and incivility. To create and maintain a civil culture, supervisors must identify and quickly deal with all incidents of incivility. Addressing these incidents as soon as possible is important in reducing the risk of escalating behaviors.

For more information on workplace issues, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Civility in the Workplace.

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