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How to Defuse Interoffice Squabbles
Interoffice squabbles are a part of almost any work environment. Despite efforts to promote a happy, healthy workplace, not everyone will always get along or like each other, and differences of opinion are inevitable at times. Workplace conflict doesn't have to get the best of you or your employees. By taking proactive steps, you can defuse interoffice squabbles.
Address the Problem
Addressing the problem as soon as it's identified is a crucial step in defusing interoffice squabbles. Managers need to step in and find out the reasons behind the problem so they can try to find positive solutions. This should be done in a face-to-face setting with all of those involved. Emails and notes are ineffective in resolving conflict, according to an article for the University of Colorado Boulder's Human Resources department. Have those involved in the conflict describe what happened, then analyze that information to come up with solutions. Addressing conflict doesn't only involve identifying the problem -- it also involves explaining why you want the conflict resolved and the steps that need to be taken for successful resolution.
Focus on the Issues
One of the main reasons interoffice conflict develops is due to an inability to control emotions, says leadership advisor Mike Myatt in an article for Forbes.com. Personal issues and attacks can often creep up in interoffice squabbles and escalate the original problem so that things quickly get out of hand. Before you know it, employees and coworkers are slinging personal insults at each other that have nothing to do with the real issue. Keeping a focus on the specific issues that are behind the conflict is important for defusing heated arguments and preventing the problem from developing into a serious crisis. If things get out of hand, take a breather and reconvene when everyone has calmed down.
Compromise can be difficult, but it's usually the only productive way to defuse interoffice squabbles. Outlining the behaviors and attitudes of each party that need improving can reduce the source of conflict. Discuss the needs and wants of each party and see if you can reach a mutual agreement. In an ideal compromise, each party gives up something to the other. There are times when compromise might not be possible or desired by either party. In these cases, you might be able to resolve the conflict by moving the disputing parties to different locations or sections of the office or by calling in a mediator.
Enlisting the assistance of a professional mediator can help prevent workplace squabbles from developing into more serious issues. It is a process that involves conflict resolution without formal complaints or lawsuits. Mediators are neutral third parties who typically believe the main reason behind workplace conflict is miscommunication and a failure to understand the needs and interests of the other person. They intervene in conflict situations to help each party reach a place of mutual understanding and agreement. Mediators meet with the parties involved and help them develop a range of acceptable solutions, says EFR Workplace Services.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.
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