How To Deal With Employees Who Don’t Get Along

28 June 2023

Employees Who Don't Get Along

In any business, it’s not uncommon to have employees who don’t get along from time to time. Whether it’s due to differences in personalities, lifestyles, opinions, or other factors, there are instances where employees simply don’t mesh well.

When there’s discord in the workplace, it affects everyone involved. The resulting tension not only creates an uncomfortable office environment but also has a negative impact on the productivity of your business.

However, it’s important to remember the adage that “iron sharpens iron.” Handled constructively, employee conflicts can lead to positive outcomes such as healthy competition, process improvements, innovation, and enhanced creativity.

Labour 24/7 understands the dynamics of such situations, and we are committed to helping you navigate them effectively. We believe in harnessing the potential of employee conflicts to drive positive change and foster a harmonious work environment.

Understand The Nature Of The Conflict

It can be tempting to make assumptions about conflict, especially when rumours are circulating. However, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. Instead, take the time to understand the underlying causes of the disagreement between your employees.

First and foremost, ensure that you are not dealing with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issue, such as workplace harassment or discrimination. Familiarise yourself with your company’s harassment prevention policies and guidelines, if you haven’t already. If these policies are not in place, it is crucial to prioritise their implementation.

Remember, when it comes to harassment, it is not the intent of the behaviour but how it is perceived by the affected individuals.

Once you have ruled out any EEOC issues, consider other underlying circumstances that may be contributing to or exacerbating the conflict. Are there clashing work styles at play? Is the environment highly stressful? Are tight deadlines resulting from a new project adding pressure? Are difficult clients causing challenges? Are some employees engaging in gossip or bullying behaviours towards their coworkers?

Multiple factors may be contributing to the hostility among your employees. Gaining insight into the core issues is crucial for effectively resolving the problem and preventing future conflicts.

Encourage Employees To Work Out Their Differences Themselves

As a business leader, it is important to promote self-sufficiency among your employees. While you oversee and manage them, it’s crucial to avoid taking on a role similar to that of a mother figure.

It’s essential to remember that reacting to every worker complaint can heighten the drama and potentially worsen the situation. In fact, it might lead some employees to perceive favouritism on your part.

Encouraging your team to manage their issues independently does not mean completely stepping back. Particularly for employees who tend to avoid confrontation, you may need to provide guidance or talking points to help them approach the other person in a positive manner. However, it is important to set the expectation that you will not solve the problem for them. While you can facilitate the discussion, it’s essential to draw a line there.

When addressing employee complaints, always use your best judgement. Consider adopting a structured approach, such as the following:

  1. Assess the emotional intensity and severity of the conflict.
  2. If appropriate, have individual conversations with each employee to acknowledge your awareness of the situation.
  3. Encourage open communication and resolution between the involved employees. Ask if they feel comfortable addressing the issue directly with each other.
  4. Remember that occasional disagreements are normal when people work together. However, it is crucial for employees to treat each other with respect and make an effort to listen to the other person’s perspective. Using phrases like “I feel” instead of “you did” can help keep the conversation constructive and avoid defensiveness.
  5. Conflict resolution doesn’t always require complete agreement. Sometimes, it’s best to respectfully agree to disagree. In such cases, employees should acknowledge the difference of opinion or approach and collaborate on finding a solution for moving forward.
  6. Focus on addressing behaviours and problems rather than targeting individuals.

Address The Situation Early & Promptly

Regrettably, certain situations cannot resolve themselves organically, requiring your intervention as a leader. If left unaddressed, employee disputes can permeate the entire workplace, eventually tarnishing the reputation of your company. Moreover, other employees may inadvertently become entangled in the conflict, leading to a detrimental “employee sideshow” that further hampers productivity.

To prevent a downward spiral, it is crucial to identify the root cause of the problem and take action before it escalates. Clearly communicate to all employees, regardless of their position or tenure, that they will be held accountable for their behaviour. Emphasise that failure to meet established standards could result in disciplinary measures.

Listen & Understand Both Sides

When it becomes necessary to intervene, it’s important to dismiss any circulating gossip in the office and refrain from accepting everything you hear at face value.

Instead, focus on directly addressing the individuals or groups involved in the incident and deal with other staff members at a later stage. Most employees desire to feel heard and acknowledged, so allow each responsible person to explain their perspective.

Before deciding whether to hold a joint meeting with the conflicting parties or to speak with them separately, assess the level of animosity between them. Remember, the objective is to discuss facts rather than emotions.

If it seems more effective to have a group discussion, provide each person with uninterrupted time to present their fact-based side of the story. Afterwards, encourage each individual to contribute ideas on how to resolve the situation and move forward collaboratively. This approach essentially serves as a mediated version of step two.

Avoid taking sides under any circumstances. Doing so will only fuel the conflict and worsen the situation. As a business leader, strive to maintain objectivity as much as possible.

For successful conflict resolution, it is important for your company to train supervisors and managers in coaching employees in this area. Insufficiently trained managers can exacerbate the situation, leading to low morale, disengaged employees, and even increased turnover.

Identify & Determine The Real Issue, Together

Frequently, the underlying cause of an employee argument is obscured by intense emotions. By the time the issue reaches a manager’s attention, the involved employees may already be angry and defensive. That’s why it is crucial to slow down the process and actively listen.

To move beyond the emotional barriers and uncover the truth, encourage each employee to express their concerns in a calm and composed manner. Merely addressing the emotional symptoms provides only a temporary fix to the issue. It is essential to delve into the core of the matter, enabling the identification of a permanent solution that is less susceptible to future flare-ups.

If you don’t feel confident in handling this process yourself or believe you may lack impartiality, consider involving an experienced HR professional to manage the situation.

Consult The Employee Handbook

Reviewing relevant company policies outlined in your employee handbook can provide guidance on the best approach to resolving the problem. Adhering to the common ground rules that every employee is expected to follow consistently can help maintain objectivity.

Ensure that your employee handbook includes essential policies, such as guidelines for appropriate conduct and conflict resolution. Conflict arising from protected classes falls under the category of harassment or discrimination, as mentioned in step one.

Therefore, your handbook should encompass these policies, along with a clear stance against harassment and discrimination, as well as instructions on how to file a complaint.

To ensure a fair resolution, it is crucial that your decision aligns with company policy. No employee should be exempt from workplace rules. Allowing an employee to disregard the rules when they have clearly violated them weakens your authority and generates resentment among other employees.

Figure Out The Solution

While employees don’t need to be best friends, it is important for them to collaborate effectively to accomplish their job responsibilities. It’s essential to educate employees about the distinction between constructive and destructive conflict.

Additionally, don’t completely dismiss the possibility of organisational changes.

In some cases, if necessary, you can enhance employee focus and improve the workplace dynamic by reorganising teams. Allowing the involved employees some time to “cool off” before working together again can be beneficial.

As a business owner or manager, you have the responsibility of running a successful operation. If the conflict persists, it can significantly impact productivity and overall performance. Recognize when it’s time to reassess your staff. One antagonistic employee can disrupt the harmony within the team.

Document The Incident

Regardless of employees’ personal preferences, it is crucial to document all workplace incidents. Keeping a record of these events enables you to monitor behaviour patterns over time and identify repeat offenders who may be adversely impacting your office environment.

Properly handling and documenting incidents also serves to safeguard your business in the event of legal disputes initiated by disgruntled employees. It is essential to accurately record factual information for each employee-related incident. Include any counselling sessions or written memoranda addressing the employees’ conduct in their HR file.

Ensure that your documentation encompasses the “who, what, when, where, and how” details of the incident, as well as the resolution agreed upon by all parties involved. This information provides a comprehensive account of the situation and the commitments made to uphold the agreed-upon resolution.

Educate Your Employees On Effective Communication

In certain cases, troubled employees may require more than just a conversation to address their issues. Individuals facing such problems often struggle with communication difficulties. If there is a significant amount of discord among your staff, it is likely time to provide them with basic communication and problem-solving training.

By equipping employees with fundamental communication techniques, you can help them navigate conflicts more effectively. Teaching problem-solving skills will empower them to address challenges constructively and find mutually beneficial resolutions. This investment in their professional development can contribute to a more harmonious and productive work environment.

Be The Example

Establishing the standard for employees who struggle to get along, as well as for all employees, is essential.

Creating a culture of engaged employees who demonstrate respect and effective collaboration is a top-down endeavour. By communicating with your employees in an honest and respectful manner, you cultivate an environment that encourages integrity and open communication. When you lead by example through transparency and authenticity, employees are more inclined to follow suit.

Much of your company culture is shaped by how individuals interact with one another. Demonstrating consistent adherence to your company’s values, policies, and guidelines in an impartial manner becomes a natural part of leading by example.

By setting high expectations for yourself and aligning them with the expectations you have for your employees, you foster trust throughout the entire organisation.

Bring The Right Staff Into Your Business With Labour 24/7

Ready to foster a harmonious work environment and enhance productivity? Labour 24/7 is here to help. As a trusted staffing agency, we understand the dynamics of employee conflicts and offer expert guidance. Head to our employers page if you are looking to hire staff today. Take the first step towards a more cohesive and successful team with Labour 24/7.