In the workplace, most of us understand the innate need for conflict resolution training. However, while it’s easy to talk about conflict in an abstract sense, it’s often better to look at specific examples so you can know what to do in these situations. So, with that in mind, let’s look at 9 resolving conflict in the workplace examples. While each situation will have its own unique details, these guidelines can help shape your response when something does occur.
Conflict 1: Sexual Harassment Case
In 2021, there were over 27,000 sexual harassment cases filed in workplaces around the US. Although training and mitigation efforts have come a long way in recent years, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
First and foremost, these cases must be treated with respect and understanding, no matter how big or small. In severe cases, the authorities may need to get involved, but it’s still up to managers and supervisors to outline a path of resolution.
The first step is documenting the allegations and discussing the events with both parties. From there, you can either take the case to HR or an in-house legal team. Since lawsuits can often occur in these cases, it’s vital to protect the company and the individuals involved as quickly as possible.
Conflict 2: Discrimination Case
Discrimination can occur for numerous reasons, including sexual orientation, gender, and race. As with harassment cases, you must treat these incidents with the utmost respect. Sometimes, discrimination can be overt, and other times it may be hiding beneath the surface. According to data, up to 61 percent of Americans have witnessed discrimination in the workplace.
It’s also important to note that an individual may not be aware of their discriminatory behavior. Conversely, a person may feel discriminated against even though that was not the intention.
In these cases, it’s crucial to stay objective and try to get to the bottom of the incident(s). Once you have a baseline, you can determine what to do next. Again, HR may be the best option, or you can consult with legal counsel if you think a lawsuit may be possible.
Conflict 3: Personality Clashes
Sometimes people just don’t get along because they clash with other personality types. When this happens, conflict resolution is a bit more nuanced because there’s not a clear “right or wrong” approach to the situation.
In this case, you want to try to observe the situation to determine whether these individuals can work together or if they should avoid each other as much as possible. It can also help to understand the viewpoint of their co-workers to see if the conflict runs deeper than just one person.
For example, perhaps two employees clash, but when they’re apart, they work well with everyone else on their team so the best course of action may be to keep them apart. Alternatively, maybe one employee clashes with everyone else, so the best resolution might be to consult with them directly.
Mediation may be another good solution, as the clashes might be rooted in something under the surface. Once you can bring that to light, it’s possible for each party to resolve their differences or at least agree to keep it professional at work.
Conflict 4: Miscommunication or Misunderstanding
Communication is the cornerstone of any relationship, professional or otherwise. So, when co-workers can’t communicate effectively, it can lead to conflicts. Thankfully, this type of conflict is often the easiest to resolve because you can discuss the situation with each party and come up with a long-term solution to avoid similar misunderstandings.
If the same type of incident keeps occurring between individuals, there may be some personality clashes happening as well. That’s why it’s important to monitor the situation to ensure everything is running smoothly after the initial conflict.
Conflict 5: Physical Altercation
If two employees get into a physical fight at work, you must take immediate action, especially if one party is seriously injured. In this case, the altercation could lead to charges filed with local law enforcement, putting the company in legal danger. So, it’s imperative to take swift action to protect the business and ensure a satisfying resolution.
Depending on the situation, one or more of the parties involved may require immediate termination. Since physical violence is harmful to the workplace, it’s difficult and sometimes impossible for workers to come back from an incident like this. However, if one person was clearly the aggressor and the other the victim, both parties may not need to suffer the consequences.
Realistically, you should develop a legal plan of action if an altercation ever does arise, especially concerning elements like medical bills, liability lawsuits, and worker’s compensation insurance. You may also have to consider property damage insurance if the altercation damages equipment or company belongings. Make sure to discuss options with your company’s legal team to determine the best way to move forward from such an incident.
Conflict 6: Employee/Customer Conflict
Regardless of the industry your business is in, customers are the lifeblood of your enterprise. So, if an employee gets into a conflict with a customer or client, that could create big trouble for the company. Even in a best-case scenario, you may wind up with a negative review that could make your brand infamous, depending on the details of the situation.
Overall, no matter who was “at fault” with this kind of conflict, what matters is how your employees conduct themselves while on the clock. Even if the customer is the aggressor in the situation, workers have to be able to mitigate the conflict to protect both themselves and the business. While it may be tempting to fight back, doing so could damage the brand’s reputation and even put the company in legal jeopardy.
In other cases, the conflict may be as simple as a disagreement with a customer, and it’s imperative to understand the cause of the incident. While you can’t necessarily facilitate mediation between employees and clients, you can still talk to the worker directly and investigate what happened.
Usually, unless it’s clear that the employee acted improperly, you want to stand behind your staff members as much as possible. Showing support for employees is imperative for workplace morale and illustrates your commitment to excellence. After all, employees are more valuable than individual customers, especially if they help facilitate higher sales.
Conflict 7: Worker/Supervisor Conflict
Sometimes, employees and supervisors don’t get along for various reasons. In one case, it could be that the supervisor has an issue with an employee and mistreats or disrespects them accordingly (or vice versa). In another case, the source of the conflict could be that the supervisor plays favorites and doesn’t treat workers with the same level of authority.
When it comes to conflict resolution, it’s crucial to stay as objective as possible, especially in situations like this. Depending on the type of conflict that occurred, siding with one person over the other could create further problems and rifts among the staff. For example, siding with the supervisor could create resentment among the other employees, while siding with the employee could create friction among management and lead to lower productivity levels.
That said, a person’s position with the company should dictate how they conduct themselves, so it might be easy to see who needs training or mediation. As a rule, supervisors have to be more objective and tactful in their interactions because they have more responsibility in representing the company’s values. So, while an employee acting out of line is a cause for training, a supervisor acting inappropriately may be grounds for termination.
Conflict 8: Difference in Management Styles
If your company has multiple managers and supervisors within each department, conflicts may arise within the management ranks, creating disharmony among the staff. For example, maybe one manager pushes their workers harder than another, leading to disjointed productivity schedules or setbacks. Alternatively, workers may prefer one supervisor over another, meaning they’ll respect the authority of one but not the other.
To help alleviate conflicts among managers and supervisors, it’s best to have a clear directive regarding standards and procedures. While managers may bring a certain level of personality to the position, there shouldn’t be too many discrepancies between how each manager works with employees. If necessary, you can create a training program to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Even better, you can gather input from both workers and supervisors to see which elements will lead to a more positive work environment.
Conflict 9: Difference in Productivity/Work Ethic
Some employees choose to go above and beyond, while others do the bare minimum required for the position. If the discrepancy between these employees is too severe, it could lead to conflict as one person winds up doing a lot more work than the other, even if their pay rates are identical.
As you would with management guidelines, it may be best to draft standards and procedures for employees, too. This way, it’s easy to tell who is following these policies and who isn’t. So, if a conflict does arise, you can take swift and decisive action based on one’s actions before the conflict. Without these guidelines in place, it’s much harder to penalize employees for not working harder than their peers as there is no specific recourse to follow.
If you’re looking to improve your conflict resolution strategy at work, let Resolve help. Contact us today to find out more!