When coworkers can’t get along, what to do?

You have a tough enough job managing the people who work for you and ensuring they are productive and satisfied in their jobs. Hopefully, your coworkers support each other and get along reasonably well. But what if there’s animosity between two coworkers? How do you manage their interpersonal conflict so that it doesn’t become toxic among your team?

First, you need to assess whether the conflict is just a clashing of personalities, or if it truly is impacting productivity and employee morale. Not everyone is going to get along. But when contention between coworkers is outwardly palatable, or if the clash becomes obvious, you must deal with it. Your other employees likely are aware of the situation and expect you to lead the team by outwardly setting an expectation that unprofessional conflict between coworkers will not be tolerated.

Here are some ways you can help reduce the riff and get your coworkers to come to a peace agreement:

Find out who is instigating the conflict before you act.

Sometimes coworker conflict results from one person. If so, take that person aside and tell them that you expect them to drop the drama and work with the other person professionally, or there will be ramifications. Then let the targeted employee know that you addressed the problem with the instigator, and that you would appreciate the keeping you informed of any recurring problems.

Encourage coworkers to work out their conflict.

If both parties are creating the conflict, take them aside, let them know that their conflict is negatively impacting the workplace, and ask them to work it out between themselves. Don’t just wait and hope this will happen naturally. The faster you address the problem, the less chances it will escalate.

Find out the reason for the conflict.

If the conflict is interpersonal, than your employees need to understand that open hostility will not be tolerated in the office environment. If it’s over a work process, or one employee’s expectations of the other’s, talk through the conflict and ask each employee how they think the best way to resolve it may be. Stick with the facts of the conflict, and discourage emotions from taking over. If you can make a change that helps to dissipate the problem, do so. Then follow up with the employees to assess how the resolution is working.

Document it.

It’s important that any work-related issues are not only addressed, but also documented. Keep a write-up of the conflict in your employee’s files. Make sure you state the facts clearly and what you did to resolve the conflict. This will protect you in the future if one of the employees quits and wants to make a legal issue out of the conflict.

If you try all of these strategies but still have not successfully resolved the conflict, you may have to involve your boss or your Human Resources department. Whatever you do, don’t let the conflict continue unabated.

Have you encountered coworker conflict in your work situation? What did you do to resolve it? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Author

Maria Porto
Maria Porto

Maria Porto is Hanscom FCU's assistant vice president of partner relations. She may be reached at mporto@hfcu.org.

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