When people discuss conflict in the workplace, they tend to group all conflict together under one banner. The problem is that all conflict is not necessarily bad.
There are plenty of instances where conflict in the workplace can be healthy as long as it is kept under control. It is when you allow conflict to get out of hand that it can begin to cause a lot of problems in the workplace.
A manager or employee needs to understand the difference between good conflict and bad conflict to properly manage conflict in the workplace. Once you are able to start separating good conflict from bad conflict, then you can act accordingly and use that kind of conflict to your advantage.
Top performer competition
Some conflict in the workplace may be impossible to avoid. For example, if you have two people who want to be top performers in their department, then a conflict will develop. But as long as this conflict is managed properly, it can be good conflict. Not only does this spur each of the top performers on to produce more, but it will also inspire your other employees to want to be recognized as top performers as well. Instituting a bonus program that utilizes good workplace metrics can be an effective way of managing this kind of conflict.
You will find that conflict in the workplace is often not generated by any negative feelings that employees have toward each other, but rather it is generated by the situation that the employees are in. If a department is coming up to an important deadline and it looks like the deadline may not be met, then conflict will ensue. This kind of conflict is good because it shows a genuine concern for the success of the company. As a manager, your job is to organize the group in such a way that the deadline can be met.
If you keep everyone focused on getting their own jobs done, then you can diffuse this kind of conflict.
Open job competition
In every company, there are certain jobs and certain departments that everyone wants to work for. When those jobs open up in those departments, the competition will be intense.
This desire to move up in the company is a strong indicator of how proactive your staff is. To help minimize this kind of conflict, it is important to post the specific guidelines of what the position requires and how to apply for it. When your employees understand the guidelines, then it makes apply for these kinds of jobs easier.
Another way you can help avoid this kind of conflict is to have these kinds of jobs open up from time to time instead of just once in a great while. If employees feel like these job openings may never come up again, then the conflict can become heated.
But if these job openings are part of a series of openings that go on throughout the year, then the people who do not get selected can wait for the next round of openings to come around.
Jan Kantor is a Southwest Florida business consultant and executive coach. For more information, or to contact him regarding workplace solutions, his website is www.jankantor.com.