Business leaders know that workplace conflict prevention within their organization is a top skill they must learn and maintain. Fortunately, the best business leaders understand that this is a major part of their job, and they strive hard to ensure that would-be “fires” within the organization aren’t allowed to continue to burn. The entire organization can look up to its leaders to see which steps they should take to improve the circumstances they find themselves in and stay on course with the company’s mission.
Common Types of “Fires” Within Companies
Any time a group of individuals is brought together to work on a common goal, there is always the possibility of tension developing. Let’s take a look at some of the pressure points that are common in various workplaces.
When individuals with different perspectives, personalities, and work styles are brought together, they are challenged to learn to complement each other and get along. That doesn’t always go as planned. Friction between co-workers can mean that employees get so distracted by their in-fighting that they cannot do the assigned work. Consider taking the following steps:
- Nurture the Culture – Creating a culture that enables the right behaviors is critical before a company can address individual players. The trickle-down of leaders that listen, collaborate, work toward mutual goals, and respect others sets the model for your employees to emulate.
- Work on Communication – Understand the meaning behind the words people say to one another. Understanding what they are saying to one another behind the literal words they use can help get to the root of the problem.
- Set up a Meeting Between Conflicting Co-Workers – Facilitating a meeting between co-workers who have friction can allow those tensions to be aired productively. Getting all sides to come together and work out their differences in the meeting itself is possible.
- Gain Buy-in and Commitment – Engaging employees in exploring what they believe they can do themselves to resolve conflicts places the responsibility back on them to control what they can control. Their active participation in the solution will also create better buy-in and a commitment to resolve differences.
- Find Common Ground – People often have more common ground between them than they may at first realize. Finding that common ground and elevating it is a great way to encourage cooperation between co-workers who might not otherwise see eye to eye.
A Lack of Emergency Preparedness
There are a multitude of disasters and emergencies that could strike a business at any time. Not having a solid plan ready to address those potential emergencies is unacceptable. Just think about the estimated 700,000 small businesses closed in the second quarter of 2020 alone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They had not prepared themselves for the emergency that COVID-19 ultimately became for them. Their lack of emergency preparedness harmed them significantly. On top of that, 64% of businesses experience web-based cyber attacks. Again, this is an emergency that companies can and should prepare for.
Issues with Clients
One of the most challenging types of fires is potential issues with clients. A company suffering from client issues needs to work on resolving them as rapidly as possible. Otherwise, they risk losing business and turning off clients who could have otherwise provided them with additional income streams in the future.
Getting to the bottom of the client’s issue means researching why they are upset in the first place. It is easy to assume that clients are frustrated and taking it out on you, but that is probably untrue. There are legitimate reasons why they are complaining, and you should research why that is the case. Remember that you are forming a relationship with them, and listening to their complaints is part of the process.
Once you have determined why they are complaining, develop an action plan for how to resolve their issue. Then, communicate that plan back to the client. They need to know that you are working on it, and they will appreciate you taking the time to explain your steps to resolve their concerns.
HR Policies That Every Company Should Have in Place For Workplace Conflict Prevention
It is essential to have a core foundation of HR policies that every company should have to make it easier to put out fires and create the kind of workplace we all strive for. A few of those policies include:
The workplace must be safe for all employees to work in. Not only that, but it is necessary for your company to remain in compliance with local, state, and federal laws related to discrimination. Besides that, it is also morally right to ensure that no one feels discriminated against when they work for you. Constructing this kind of policy will allow you to point to it if an incident crops up. Consider adding an employee hotline that they can contact anonymously to report any harassment issues. You need a clear policy for
employees and management to refer to when addressing any potential violations of one’s rights or psychological safety at work.
Billions of people log on to their social media accounts daily and post virtually anything they want. However, when those individuals work for your company, the risks to your reputation you face when posting anything they want to are enormous. Your social media
policy should address when employees are prohibited from being on their personal social media accounts (typically when they are on the clock), and it should also detail what employees are and are not allowed to post about when they log on to their accounts. Although you cannot infringe on an employee’s First Amendment right to free speech, you can have a policy regarding topics that employees will be terminated for if they post about, such as:
- Confidential company information
- Unlawful harassment or bullying of co-workers
- Threats of violence or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct
- Any criminal material
- Infringement of company copyrights or intellectual property protections
These are the types of things that keep business managers up at night. Make sure you have policies in place before a social media incident occurs to aide you in your workplace conflict prevention efforts.
It is virtually guaranteed that your employees will have access to confidential information within the company that the outside public does not. Keeping that information within the company must be a top priority. Employees should be made to sign a confidentiality policy that prohibits them from speaking about private information deemed confidential to the company. This protects the company legally from someone who might speak out of turn and release information they should never have released. This policy will keep your confidential information under wraps where it belongs.
Documents That HR Should Keep Handy
There are certain documents that every business should have in place to mitigate or address workplace conflict. Such documentation will set clear and written expectations for employees so they can self-manage. When things go wrong, they can provide a paper trail of actions taken by the company and why they opted to make the decisions they made. Keep these documents readily available:
- Employee Handbook – An employee handbook details all relevant company policies and procedures and how accountability is spread throughout the company. It is an extremely useful guide for determining who is responsible for what and how different procedures should play out.
- Exit Process – A list of procedures for when an employee leaves the company is also helpful to have around. If one of the “fires” in the company results in someone being terminated, then it is best to have exit policies ready to go.
Ensure your HR department is prepared with all these workplace conflict prevention documents and anything else that lends consistency and credibility to your business. If you take all these steps, you can keep your company moving in the right direction.
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This article does not constitute legal advice, and there are subtle variations in employment law as it pertains to this topic, depending on where your business operates. It is strongly suggested that you seek consultation or legal counsel before making policy decisions.