Conflict is almost inevitable in an environment populated by different personalities with different goals. Does this mean that managers are doomed to spend their days sorting out employee grievances?
Not necessarily, says industrial psychologist Monique Glass – but encouraging employees to work out their own issues, rather than calling in the HR heavies, takes time, introspection and hard work.
While this may make DIY conflict resolution sound like an onerous process, leadership coach Brian Eagar of TowerStone insists it’s more effective and sustainable than the alternative.
“If two people sort out their personal differences because a manager’s ordered them to do so, there’s a chance that lingering resentment may continue to contaminate their interactions. On the other hand, if they can be made to recognise that there’s intrinsic worth in finding ways to co-operate and collaborate, they’ll build a foundation for a stronger working relationship going forward,” he says.
And make no mistake: a team that’s free of conflict is far stronger than one that’s constantly undermined by members’ gripes, no matter how subtle these may be. Says Glass: “Employees who labour in a hostile atmosphere may act out in one of three ways: they may become resentful, display passive-aggressive behaviour or simply withdraw and disengage from their work.”
Either way, the outcome is the same: reduced productivity.
Eagar agrees, noting that conflict takes up an enormous amount of mental energy that could otherwise be used to generate reports and meet deadlines.