Interpersonal conflict naturally occurs in the workplace, regardless of the company size — personalities clash just as easily in small companies as they do in large corporations. So what’s the big deal?
Interpersonal conflicts can damage the morale of everyone around them. They can cause lower productivity, leading to lower profits. If they’re left unaddressed, employees may quit in frustration, leading to employee turnover and the associated costs. So it’s in your company’s best interest to develop policies that will help you handle and regulate conflict.
Many employers regulate workplace conflict through human resources initiatives such as an employee-relations program. HR staff specifically trained to work in the employee-relations area should have experience in conflict management. In small businesses where there isn’t a dedicated HR department, there should at least be a designee for handling workplace conflict issues.
Large organizations have formal policies, often part of a handbook, that explain acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace. A small, casual workplace may operate just fine without an employee handbook, but some kind of policy should be in place that gives managers and HR a leg to stand on when dealing with employee conflicts.
The Other Side of the Coin:
And yet, maintaining a healthy level of interpersonal disagreement can help a business succeed.
Competition Can Be Good
Conflict can inspire competition among team members, and that competition can improve productivity. It can also be a source for new ideas that might resolve company issues or stimulate employees to work harder to succeed. Of course you need to moderate the competitive element in your staff, to prevent it from causing disruption to daily work activities. But healthy competition is good for your business!
Survival of the Better
Keep an eye on the level of interpersonal conflict and see which of your employees find solutions to issues. Those that don’t have the determination to work out conflicts, or learn to work despite them, will seek other employment. You are left with the employees who want to work hard to succeed.
Teamwork Can Produce Results
When interpersonal conflicts arise from two competing points of view trying to accomplish the same results, a proactive manager will figure out how to allow both parties to benefit, or to encourage those who are competing to work together to develop a common solution. If conflict spurs creativity, the realization of a common goal can mold that creativity into an effective team.