Workplace conflict is not a strange phenomenon; it is a known fact that where ever humans dwell together there will always be conflict. We all have our opinions, experiences, thoughts, culture, values, customs, norms and unique differences. So, while we expect conflict to arise, we are all aware that how we deal with the conflict is an important factor in how well we get along. Knowing how to resolve conflict in the workplace should be of concern to both employers and employees. For to ignore an existing problem can be compared to covering a bad sore without first treating it.
Today, I aim to look at conflict in the workplace with a focus on the statement “leave your problems at home.” The goal is to help employers and employees gain perspective on dealing with conflict effectively through early interventions and consideration for those involved. At the end of the day, employers and employees need each other in order to build the organization. Each person should be treated with respect and dignity. No one should be allowed to suffer in silence.
Questions We Must Ask Ourselves
Time and time again I’ve heard it said to people on the job “do not bring your problems to the work place.” While there may be some great advice in that statement, has anyone ever given much thought to it? How can we function effectively if we are facing problems without attending to them? Have we considered that the problem asked to leave at home may have started in the work environment?
Have we considered that not everyone is able to deal with problems effectively and may need the help of others? Are there resources in place to help employees deal with problems effectively? Are these resources accessible to employees when they need them? Is counseling offered to employees?
How do we treat those employees when they are counseled? Are the rules of counseling someone followed? For example, do we threaten, bully, or intimidate those who are facing problems? Or do we approach the situation objectively, without bias, judgement, and with empathy? Last, but not least, are supervisors knowledgeable about how to counsel and resolve conflict?
Each Employee May Take a Different Approach When Dealing with Conflict
Everyone Deals with Problems differently. Below are various ways in which employees may deal with workplace issues;
- Those who will try their utmost to put on a good face even when things are really bad; They pretend that all is well when at work and when they go home they either cry to themselves and wish they can find a different job. Or, they take out their frustration on their family members. Either way, they fail to function as effectively at their job because they are not happy.
- Those who lash out at others as a way of coping. These will react to anyone who provokes them or even to those they provide service for. They get angry for seemingly no reason because all of their anger and frustration is not dealt with properly. These are the ones who will damage the company’s reputation, perform poorly in some instances, and affect the company’s clientele relationships.
For further understanding of conflict and how to resolve issues I direct you to this interesting article.
- Those who will try to make other people’s life miserable; They pretend they are nice one minute and the next they are very offensive. They are likely to be experiencing some personal problems. These are the ones who likes to exert authority in the absence of the person in charge. These are usually the persons who are well seasoned within the organization and have been doing what they feel like without ever being taken to task by the person in charge for their behavior. After a while they get used to bullying others because they know they can get away with it. In the end, they cause other workers to become frustrated, dissatisfied, anxious, and fearful of going to work.
Building a Culture of Trust & Empathy in the Workplace
The Employer’s Role: Supervisor, Manager, and/Counselor:
It does not matter which category an employee falls in the lists above, they all need help. But, help requires the effort of both the employee and the employer. While the employer can initiate or offer help, these efforts may not be successful if the employee is unwilling to admit that they are facing problems which are affecting their work. From an employer perspective, it is a great thing when a leader can recognize and extend help to those under their leadership. It shows that the employer values their human resources and is empathetic of the employee’s situation.
Sometimes, we find that some employers or supervisors are judgmental, confrontational and threatening. Employers coming from a place where judgement has already been formed prior to the hearing, may make the situation worst. If you as the manager have already formed judgement on the situation it is easy to behave as if you have all of the facts when you meet with the employee. This, from personal experience, is not the best approach to take if the goal is to resolve conflict. Rather than forming judgment and conclusions one should allow the person facing the problem a chance to express themselves. Your goal as a counselor is to listen and help the counselee gain insight into the situation and ways in which it can be resolved. At the end of it all, employers should be mindful not to allow their emotions or personal opinion cloud their attitude towards the employee. If an employee knows they have been tried and found guilty without a hearing, they are less likely to seek or accept help.
The Employee’s Role: Seeking Help/ Counselee
As a former employee, I must say that I have experienced problems at work and have smiled and pretended all was well. I can tell you that if you are facing issues which have the potential to affect your performance it is highly recommend that you seek help. My source of help came from supervisors and other colleagues. Reaching out helped me focused and gained insight on how to deal with conflict in the workplace. Because of this I was able to continue performing to the best of my ability, and to control my emotions, especially in the presence of customers.
But, as I indicated above, everyone is not the same. Sometimes, it takes experience and trial and error to get to the point of coping with conflict in the workplace. If the pressure builds up and nothing is done, some employees can go from smiling and bearing it to lashing out provoked or unprovoked. If you are an employee and this seems to be happening to you, I urge that you seek help from someone you trust. Hopefully, this will be someone in the organization who is willing to assist, is non-judgmental, and empathetic.
Nevertheless, it is better to seek help than to go along in misery and allow your problems to affect your performance and relationships. While it is impossible to love everyone, it is possible to work in an environment with people who we do not always love. But, in order to do so, we must be able to work out our individual differences amicably. If the issue an employee is experiencing is work related, the only way it can be resolved is to address it at work by seeking the help of those who are in managerial positions. Consequently, the next time we are tempted to tell someone leave their problems at home, we should really find out if the problem they are facing is personal or workplace related.
Thank you for stopping by. I welcome all comments regarding this issue in order to gain more insight. Please share your comments and experiences below.