Workplace conflicts can be one of the greatest causes of employee stress. Nothing affects employee morale like consistent workplace negativity. It saps the positive energy of the organization and diverts the attention of the staff from work and performance. Employee’s stress and many other conflicts such as bullying claims and workers’ compensation can be prevented if managers act quickly to resolve the issues between co-workers and maintain a healthy work environment.
Nowadays, negativity is an increasing problem in the workplace environment. Human Resource is one of the key departments of every organization and is one of the primary solutions to dealing with workplace negativity. In such cases, the duties of HR must be performed vigilantly for the benefit of the organization as a whole. Negativity can arise when individuals are unclear about their respective areas of responsibility so that one person believes that another is trying to take away his authority and responsibility.
HR must inform all employees about the harmful and detrimental impacts of negativity within the organization. In some situations, workplace negativity may arise when two workgroups are pursuing incompatible objectives. HR must promote good communication among the employees. If the staff has healthy professional relationship among each other, then employees can communicate with each other about any negative situations that are happening in their life. On a personal level, conflict can arise when one individual thinks that he can tell another person what to do, but the other person refuses to follow his instructions or recognize his authority due to jealousy or any other reason. Conflict may occur due to the nature of the work involved so that for one person or group to ‘succeed’, another group has to ‘fail’.
Organizational Development (OD) can also play an effective role to minimizing negativity and conflicts in the work environment. The most appropriate measures of dealing with workplace negativity will vary according to the circumstances. Conflicts can be resolved primarily by paying close attention to the needs of the co-workers, maintaining organizational hierarchy, organizational development, taking disciplinary action, emphasizing the interests and rewards, managing conflicts of interest and ethical conflict resolution, good communication, establishing certain job roles, maintaining disciplined attention and effective team management.
1. Diagnose workplace negativity and pay attention to employees’ concerns
Negativity is often the result of a loss of confidence, control or community as stated by Gary S. Topchik, the author of Managing Workplace Negativity. Knowing what people are negative about is the first step to diagnosing workplace negativity. Whilst trying to resolve the conflicts and minimizing workplace negativity, do not bring the issues that the individuals do not want to talk about. Resolving workplace conflicts and minimizing workplace negativity can lead to a positive professional culture and healthier professional relationships.
2. Maintaining an organizational hierarchy at all levels and providing opportunities to employees to make decisions
Most of the negativity related to delegation of work can be prevented if an organizational hierarchy is maintained within the organization at all levels. This can be done by maintaining a matrix organizational structure for some of the activities of the organization. So that if employees turn negative, they can be counseled by the relevant individuals irrespective of taking up to the Head of the staff. Obviously, conflicts can arise i.e. the project manager might want to skip some tests to make up time; however, the quality control department won’t want accept that. Both will then put the employee under some pressure. However, the matrix structure should allow the employee to ask the two managers to discuss the problem, as it is certain that they are both involved in the conflict. Employees may also get jealous of each other professionally or personally and may react offensively against each other. The management must keep these situations in check and shall work to minimize workplace negativity in among the different departments of the organization.
3. Organizational Development (OD) and training employees to work as a team
Organization development is the planned and systematic approach to enabling sustained organization performance through the involvement of its people. The Australian Human Resources Institute has described the benefits of Organizational Development. They include putting the minds of employees to work, enhancing the quality and speed of decisions, making conflict constructive rather than destructive and training the employees to work as a team. This can be done by team-building, career development, training and HR courses, innovation, talent management, change management, organizational assessments and coaching and leadership development. In this way, employees tend to work as a team and believe they are part of a larger group working towards a common goal. The management should work to develop workplace policies and procedures that organize the work efficiently and minimize workplace negativity within the organization.
4. Taking disciplinary action in order to criticize negativity
Every organization requires its employees to meet certain performance standards and behave appropriately at the workplace. Disciplinary or corrective action is the way to communicate to the employee to improve his conduct and performance. Disciplinary action may be taken when other ways to minimizing negativity e.g. counseling, performance appraisal etc. have not been successful. However, for the serious cases of misconduct, the management may choose to advance straight to the disciplinary action.
Before deciding upon which disciplinary action to take, management has to keep in mind the very purpose of the discipline. The goal of this disciplinary action is to guide the employee towards a better performance or an appropriate conduct. The process has to be constructive and should not be meant for punishing the employee.
5. Emphasizing the incentives and rewards for good and positive behavior
It is important while training employees to emphasize on the incentives and rewards. The following steps can be taken to promote positivity and undermining negativity in the workplace among two different department or parties:
- Comprehensive and convincing explanations can be offered as to why the concessions sought by the other party cannot be accepted.
- Expressing willingness to review the matter or concessions pursued by the other party in the future.
- While attempting to finalize the main contract, providing an ancillary contract consisting additional advantages in the future for both parties
- During the final phases, subtly stating the consequences, must the negotiation fail and emphasizing the advantages to both parties leading them to a win-win.
- Conduct meetings with your staff and listen to their complaints on a regular basis
When employees are faced with an ethical conflict, they need to know what to do. If there is a threat to their compliance with the fundamental principles of the ethical code, how should they ensure their compliance and deal with the threat? Conduct meetings with your staff on a regular basis to discuss any issues that they might be facing and get feedback from them regularly. Encourage all of your employees to speak up and voice their concerns, even if they are negative. Regularly listen to the complaints of your employees in order to find out if there are valid reasons for their negativity. Choose a human resource person in the human resource department or a company manager that employees can also come to when they have concerns about any workplace issues or conflicts, and introduce that individual to your employees at a staff meeting. Make certain that you assure all your employees that their concerns will be heard on a regular basis, as this will help in promoting positivity in the workplace by solving the problems of every employee.
7. Promote good communication among the employees
Elton Mayo was the first management theorist to draw attention towards the social aspects of working and the effects of motivation on the performance of the individuals. Motivation and productivity is affected by the relationship between management and the coworkers. Management should sit down on an individual basis with employees who have negative feelings about their work and ask detailed questions to find out the reason or reasons they have negative feelings and suggest them other positive ways to view these negative issues.
Managers need to communicate with their coworkers. When there is no communication, conflicts are inevitable, and workers resent the focus of management on cutting costs and improving efficiency. Managers must play the role of “disturbance-handlers” in resolving the conflicts and disputes and reducing negativity among the work environment. Management must, therefore, develop and apply ‘people skills’ in order to motivate their coworkers. Managers should become more involved with their coworkers, and earn the respect of the coworkers so that they stop resenting the management. The result would be improved motivation amongst workers and higher productivity.
8. Establishing certain job roles and responsibilities
Conflicts can arise due to role ambiguities among the employees. It is necessary to create certain and fixed job roles and responsibilities to resolve the conflicts among the group members. The simplest way is by giving praise to the employees and other measures etc. This is usually common in organizations where employees are ambitious and want to succeed in a short span of time. Such conflicts can be minimized if the job descriptions are set and even if another employee works on behalf of another, he must be credited for it. He should be recognized and such a clause must be included in a proper recognition system such as “employee of the year”.
9. Maintain disciplined attention and an open-door policy
The leader must get conflict and negativity out into the open and use this as a source of creativity. Constructive conflict among individuals leads eventually to collaboration and agreement. The leaders most likely to succeed are those who make followers aware of their responsibilities. Start an open-door policy and have a suggestion box made available. This will encourage your employees to communicate on a regular basis with you and make them feel that their concerns are being heard and acted upon.
10. Effective team management
In an effective team, team members identify themselves with the team and feel a part of the team. Team spirit and team loyalty is strong. Positive conflict occurs when there is disagreement, but the team members are willing to discuss their differences fully and reach a suitable agreement about what the solution should be. Some conflicts are inevitable in teams: the way that the conflicts are resolved is important. In an ineffective team, the team members fail to resolve their differences properly. Disagreements are not discussed fully. They are often resolved by an ineffective compromise that ‘patches up’ the differences of opinion, and the compromise might not last for long.
These are the 10 ways in which management can effectively resolve workplace conflicts and eliminate negativity in the workplace environment. One of the tasks of management is to evaluate the performance of the workgroup for which they are responsible. Performance evaluation is linked to planning, coordination, and control. Measuring and evaluating team performance is also necessary when there is a system of team incentives and rewards. Conflict among the staff can adversely affect the quality of work and its effectiveness and may further deteriorate the workplace environment through increased negativity. However effective conflict resolution can bring radical changes, open communication, improved dialogue, improved customer service, encourage innovation and result in constructive levels of tension within the organization proving positive for the organization as a whole. Management must, therefore, maintain the organizational performance by reducing negativity and promoting workplace positivity.
Asma Niaz is an Academic writer at Zoe Talent Solutions who loves to write stellar content on various educational topics, programs, trainings and courses. Zoetalentsolutions is a premium teaching division, which offers highly professional HR courses to excel at your workplace.