Tips for dealing with conflict between co-workers

Two colleagues constantly oppose each other, do not agree on anything and no longer manage to work together. So that this conflict does not contaminate the whole atmosphere of the team, it is better to find common ground. But it’s not always easy to know how to react. Discover our advice to adopt the right reflexes and bring serenity back to the office.

Facilitate communication between employees

Two colleagues no longer speak to each other, or only to exchange sarcasm. Whether you are a manager or a simple collaborator, you can decide to take the situation in hand so that it does not escalate. Before trying to resolve the conflict, you can listen to both parties’ reasons for blaming each other. You may find this to be a simple misunderstanding. In this case, you can bring them to neutral ground so that they can explain themselves calmly and resolve the misunderstanding. On the other hand, the subject of the dispute can be deeper and be based on a professional plan, one has “stolen” the customer from the other or has attributed his idea to himself… The rethinking of the question can be the opportunity to start again on good bases.

But this confrontation must be productive, it is not a question of settle accounts and to fight back, but to ease tensions and find common ground. Once the elements of the conflict have been discussed, if the colleagues still cannot agree, you can propose to them to establish rules governing their relations: more personal discussions for example, less collaborations…

Relying on a third party in a conflict between employees

If you are unwilling or unable to support this situation, you can refer your colleagues in conflict to a third party. Mediation is also a method widely used in large companies to resolve conflicts, whether they concern only two people or an entire department, for example. This can be a good alternative if communication is impossible between the different parties. To have a fresh perspective, a staff representative can play this role provided that he does not know one of the parties personally and maintains a neutral view of the situation. You can also contact a member of human resources. This service can facilitate proximity and communication, especially between management and employees. This can be particularly interesting if the source of the conflict stems from an administrative matter, such as a difference in salary, holidays or benefits.

Your supervisor also has a managerial role, so he is able to arbitrate a dispute since he is responsible for the health and well-being of his employees. If it is a question of settling a conflict as to the missions of each one, he can even be a privileged interlocutor. He may take the necessary measures to clarify the attributions of each or reorganize the team and ease tensions.

Propose a common project to employees in conflict

Another solution, to defuse a disagreement, can be to change the angle. If the conflict is of a more personal nature between the employees, you can, for example, suggest that they work together to refocus them on their professional skills. Offer them a common project, the objective of which is accessible within a fairly short period of time, so that they are obliged to mobilize together to fulfill the contract. This technique is often used in the context of team-building because it allows you to strengthen ties and discover your colleagues from a new angle. You can also include a third person in this project to streamline communication.

At the end of each of these conflict resolution methods, give employees time to digest the proposals of this approach before drawing up a report. The dispute may be resolved after a few meetings or may take longer to take effect. In any case, offer a trial period after which the two parties meet to draw conclusions. During this meeting, you can come back to the solutions put in place and their effects, to readjust if necessary or try another method.

The French being 72% consider their work to be a key element of their happiness*, the quality of the relationships they have with their colleagues is essential. And this social bond seems even more important in a context of health concerns and the generalization of telework.

* The study was conducted via a self-administered online questionnaire from 12 to 17-11-2020, after a qualitative survey of 117 people for Microsoft France/Opinion Way.

(By the editorial staff of the hREF agency)

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