Working with others by its very nature involves some degree of conflict. But there’s a critical difference between the everyday minor conflicts that arise from sharing ideas and working as a team, and the unproductive conflict that can leave the workplace atmosphere tense and uncomfortable.
Animosity between employees can be a difficult issue to address, as it isn’t always related to a workplace issue. Many times, the conflict stems from something that happened outside of the workplace. Other times, people’s personalities simply clash: one person gets on the other’s nerves, the other responds in kind, and so on. Unproductive conflict may become apparent when these clashes result in uncomfortable workplace feelings, peppered with eye rolls, terse responses, and cold demeanours. Not only does this affect the people directly involved, it can create a negative atmosphere for those who witness it as well. If left alone, those rude or curt interactions could blossom into full-out arguing, passive-aggressive toxic behaviours, or worse, workplace violence or harassment, and as the employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen.
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Conflicts that extend into grey areas can be some of the most difficult situations when managing people. It’s important that, when faced with employees who don’t like each other, you address the situation promptly and tactfully, and that your standards and expectations are made clear when moving forward. Employees do not have to like each other, but mutual respect in the workplace is important for supporting a safe, productive environment for all employees.
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