Even when you have a laid-back and friendly workforce, you’ll inevitably find that some employees won’t get along with other employees for whatever reason. Maybe it’s a personality clash, disagreements in politics, or one of the employees is rude or abusive toward others. While dealing with the latter is a fairly clear-cut issue, the former two can present problems and proposed solutions can simply cause more conflicts.
As an example, you have two employees who find each other’s views unpleasant or ridiculous, and frequently clash. Some organisations will choose to separate the two into different parts of the office, but if they still have to work together it’s not a real solution. Other organisations may fire one or both of them before the animosity results in an incident, but they may be talented workers whose skills were indispensable to your organisation. This in particular can cripple startups and small businesses who rely on a small core of employees. For many, this can be an awkward and difficult dilemma to solve; one in which the company will always be worse off for.
So is there any way to mitigate and ultimately stop these conflicts from breaking a company?
It should be said that isolating employees that disagree with each other is only half the solution. Avoiding a face-to-face confrontation is important, but if they can communicate by other means: work telephones, emails and passive-aggressive sticky notes, there’s still a potential ignition source of a conflict. If possible, you could use a third party for correspondence between these employees so they don’t have to interact directly. Another solution would be placing these employees in different departments, so they no longer have to work together.
If you feel the need to fire a specific employee for being disagreeable, consider what has brought you to that conclusion. They could be having trouble with their work, perhaps due to incomplete or poor training, stress could be getting to them, they may feel that they have no future in the business and so on. A person’s personality can be coloured by their environment and particularly their workplace, so the problem may lie with an unpleasant workplace or a temporary setback in that person’s life, and their behaviour now doesn’t reflect the real person.
Nevertheless, there is a difference between a employee having a bad day and an employee who’s always cranky and prone to starting arguments. In this case, disciplinary measures are required to make it clear that their current behaviour isn’t acceptable.
There are other potential solutions for workplace conflicts, such as setting new rules around interaction between employees, getting both perspectives on the issue and applying a solution based on that, and so on, but they can take a lot of time and effort that you can’t afford. Just remember that firing an employee without consideration for why they were being irritable and argumentative can backfire; conflict is normally a healthy process that can result in improvements to workplace policy, or can reveal serious problems with current policies.
At the Change Consultancy, we’re excited about taking new technology, methods and workplace philosophy to reinvigorate companies and get them running at maximum efficiency in an age where change is fast and confusing.