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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How to Manage Conflict in the Office

The office climate of 2009 is very stressful, as unemployment hovers below 10% and the next layoff seems just around the corner. This high-tension environment exacerbates underlying conflicts, and may bring many to the fore. Below you will find practical steps for dealing with conflicts between employees.

The first step is to identify why the conflict exists. Is there an old argument that has been simmering? Perhaps there is a structural, corporate issue that brings out the aggravation. Without a clear understanding of why the conflict exists, it can not be dealt with appropriately. Try RingCentral Fax FREE for 30 days

The next step is to stay focused on the present. If the conflict precedes your leadership, you can only hope to acknowledge the emotions, but can't be responsible for that done by others. If the conflict is fresh and the responsible party can be identified, have the party accept responsibility and make amends.

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A third step is to refocus the conflicted parties on the shared vision of the company and business unit. While the disagreement is obvious, the points of agreement have drifted into the background. Remind each side that as employees of the company, their first priority is the customer and the success of the company. Also remind them that any actions detracting from serving customers and promoting the business will not be tolerated. Executives & Professionals: Changing Jobs?

Finally, once the argument has diminished, insure the two parties are indeed fulfilling their obligations to customers and the company. If they can't find a way to work together, it may be necessary to move them into different business units or areas where they won't be in conflict. If that is not possible, reminding them of the possibility of termination may be a very quick remedy to the conflict.

Stressful economic times often bring long-forgotten hurts to forefront, and generally put people on edge. Confrontation and conflict are more likely, but manageable. By keeping employees focused on the customer and the mission, vision and values of the company can help mitigate the conflict or at least make it easier to resolve.

The primary source for this post is "How to Defuse Discord on Your Team," by John Baldoni of Harvard Business Publishing.

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