The Key to Overcoming Workplace Negativity

14 Sep

There is no guarantee that just because two people work together they are going to get along. Conflict in the office, though, can result in increased disengagement and a depletion of productivity, as this negativity will impact everyone working with those involved in conflict. Just like being around someone with a chip on his shoulder all the time will make you feel less optimistic, so too does working in an office rife with conflict make the workplace harder to survive in. Brokering peace is crucial in such environments.

The Impact of Negativity

Putting strain on employee engagement can be a massive problem for managers dealing with worker unrest. Such conflict is the root of many voluntary dismissals, weighing heavily on HR professionals, as workers choose to leave rather than tough it out in a hostile environment.

A number of employees today would consider quitting outright from a position tainted by stressful disputes between themselves and other workers, or even in scenarios where they are simply impartial observers to the issue. Simply being present for disputes can wear down workers, elevating stress levels for everyone in the office.

What complicates conversations between employees?

Businesses usually have guidelines concerning topics of conversation that are to be barred from the workplace. They also disallow certain kinds of visual content, limiting the amount of sloganeering any individual can encounter during the workday, be it on a shirt or cap, a lunchbox or some other highly noticeable article. There are also employee management tools dictating what kinds of speech are considered offensive, but sometimes these things slip through the cracks during casual conversation.

So what creates conflict in the workplace? A number of factors can add up to an issue. These include poor communication, differing interests and a disconnect in general personal traits and preferences. These are things inherent to an individual’s personality and sometimes cannot be avoided, though mitigation is possible.

Avoiding difficult or contentious subjects is a good business practice both internally as well as with customers. HR personnel should encourage the avoidance of charged conversations regarding race, religion and other demographics that can ruin relationships at many different levels. It is important to encourage employees to keep verbal conversations, internal messages and notes sent using employee self-service portals to a professional tone and subject matter, according to the source.

How can you make it easy and comfortable for employees to provide feedback?

Resolving outstanding conflicts is essential to encourage a work environment conducive to productivity and well-being for all employees. It may be difficult to get people to come forward with problems before they become crises, however, as workplace culture generally frowns on individuals taking an issue to a manager without inducing negative feelings on the employee’s part.

Encouraging workers to come forward with problems is one solution, but making it a point to talk to people on a one-to-one basis in a private setting like a closed office can make workers feel more secure when discussing human resources issues. When these issues come up, managers need to address the problem immediately, reassure those involved that the matter will be handled, and that the only concern is making everyone more comfortable in the workplace. Taking even minor steps to alleviate tension will help ease the minds of those in the direct vicinity of the problem, opening the door for more progress and communication.

Getting to the bottom of a problem is the first step in finding a way to disperse tension. Asking questions is one of the best ways to do this, and being sure that no inquiry is accusatory or closed-ended. Asking for suggestions is also a good tactic, as this allows workers to be directly involved in the resolution process and give their insight as to how best help them re-acclimate to a positive office experience.

Why is formal mentoring for employees sometimes not enough? 

Unfortunately, sometimes there is nothing that can be done to keep a conflict completely out of the workplace. Individuals must be able to let go of their differences, put aside grudges and get back to work. Not every person is going to be capable of this, and sometimes moving a worker or reassigning them is the only way to save office chemistry. Before taking more escalated measures, the return on employee investment should always be considered.

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