Workplace Symphonies By Regina Schnell
Common Sources of Employee Conflict
You may be surprised at the top reasons for employee conflict. Lasting conflict isn’t typically due to jilted office romances or promotion jealousy. While those issues do occur, there are far more common sources of employee conflict. These include:
- High Conflict Individuals (also known as difficult people)
- Work style differences
- Undefined goals
- Unclear roles, responsibilities, and/or processes
- Undefined performance standards, and expectations
- Improper team management
- Lack of leadership knowledge, skills, or abilities
- Inefficient training and teambuilding activities
- Absence of or a disconnect with organization mission and values
As a leader, your duty is to help resolve these problems before they result in major losses of efficiency for your organization. If you feel a bit like a fish out of water, sometimes it is helpful to bring in a professional workplace coach who can guide you in how to overcome these challenges. Many of these issues are easily remedied, resulting in mitigated risk, highly engaged employees, and more effective teams.
Two Effective Steps to Employee Conflict Resolution
While solving employee conflict can be a bit tricky, as the solution may need to be specifically tailored to your particular issue, there are some steps you can take to prevent further exacerbation of the problem.
- Talk to each employee privately: Sometimes an employee may just need to get something off their chest but feels uncomfortable talking about it in a group setting.
- Develop a plan together: After meeting with each employee privately, discuss the issue together. Create a strategy that each employee agrees on to move forward.
Using the CARS Method developed by Bill Eddy, as part of Steps 1 & 2 above, can help guide you through these conversations and help move towards a positive solution. “The CARS method is designed to help you organize your responses, to reinforce the conflicting parties’ best behavior, to calm the parties down, if needed, and to redirect their energies.” Provided below is a brief summary of the CARS Method. This method is described in detail in several of Bill Eddy’s books, including It’s All Your Fault At Work, co-written by L. Georgi DiStefano.
CARS Step 1 – Connect with neutral EAR Statements: The goal is to quickly form a connection with individuals involved in the conflict by using Empathy, Attention, and Respect. The book, It’s All Your Fault At Work, describes this process in detail.
CARS Step 2 – Analyze Options. This step involves considering alternative solutions. You begin by brainstorming and then carefully reviewing the options. This is the crux of the process. The Book provides numerous easy to follow examples.
CARS Step 3 – Respond to Hostility or Misinformation. Misinformation and blaming is very common, so you need to carefully consider your responses. Once again, specific examples are provided in the Book.
CARS Step 4 – Set Limits on Misbehavior. This step can seem awkward at first, but it really helps pave the path for positive outcomes. While this step can be challenging, guidance and assistance are available.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes bringing in a neutral third party can help get everyone in sync. Workplace coaches and mediators deal with these challenges on a daily basis and can provide creative, mutually beneficial solutions that everyone can feel good about.
Regina Schnell is the founder of Workplace Symphonies. She is a certified coach, mediator and a distinguished expert in the fields of workplace conflict resolution, human resources, and risk mitigation. With more than 20 years of experience working for various organizations as an HR professional, she continues to help clients achieve individual and organizational excellence through comprehensive coaching, communication and conflict resolution services.
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Learn more about Regina at WorkplaceSymphonies.com.