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grace cloete

Managing conflict in the workplace

Grace Cloete
Workplace conflict is inevitable when employees of various backgrounds and different work styles are brought together for a shared business purpose. Conflict can—and should—be managed and resolved. With tensions and anxieties at an all-time high due to the current political divide and racial inequity discussions at many places of work, the chances for workplace conflict have increased.

The first steps in handling workplace conflict belong, in most cases, to the employees who are at odds with one another. The employer's role—exercised by managers and HR professionals—is significant, however, and is grounded in the development of a workplace culture designed to prevent conflict among employees to the extent possible

A well-functioning work environment is one in which employees communicate with respectful, inoffensive language; show tolerance and acceptance of differences among each other; and demonstrate respect for all individuals in the organisation regardless of position, status or tenure.

Types of conflict

Furthermore, although supervisors and managers have a major responsibility to ensure that workplace conflicts are resolved, the first steps to settling differences should be taken by employees themselves. However, know where to draw the line.

Do not expect employees to handle every problem on their own; it could send a message that management is willing to ignore inappropriate or potentially illegal behaviour. Make sure employees know that managers must be notified of and involved in certain types of conflicts, particularly if there are indications of physical violence, harassment, theft, or possession or use of illegal substances. Non-management employees should never be expected to confront violations of the law or to enforce company policy without management's knowledge.

Leaders play a role

Conflicts have a better chance of being managed quickly and successfully when an organisation has a strong leadership team in place. Leaders that allow poor behaviour from employees or ignore workplace bullies will certainly experience damaged employee relations. An effective management team is imperative in preventing slippage in employee morale and increases in turnover.

Ultimately, there is no single strategy to create a positive workplace climate. A number of tools are used in various combinations to stimulate employee engagement and to minimise conflict. Written HR policies are essential to provide guidance to managers and employees on how conflicts and other issues should be handled. Such policies include any formal mechanisms in place to help employees resolve differences and provisions to prohibit retaliation against employees who raise concerns.

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Allgemeine Zeitung 2022-11-27

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