How to deal with / avoid employee disputes in the workplace
Many disputes in the workplace originate from one of three points: personality clashes, misunderstandings, and management practices. If you want to deal with employee disputes effectively, it’s important to take a step back and examine the root causes of the issue before jumping into action. The following list outlines some potential causes for disagreements between employees that can be seen in any company:
Autocratic leadership. Employees in a company need to have an idea about the rules and policies that are being enforced, or else they will feel that they are being treated unfairly by management. If your employees don’t know what is expected of them, you’ll likely see greater rates of absenteeism, insubordination, rule-breaking, and turnover. Communication is a key part of any manager’s role – if you can’t communicate with your employees or make them comfortable with knowing what to expect from you, they won’t be as productive as they could be.
Be unrealistic about goals and deadlines. If you give an employee a goal that is too large, he will not only fail to accomplish it, but he will feel overwhelmed and resentful of management. If you give an employee a goal that is too small, she will feel unproductive and bored. Goals should be set at the right size so that employees are challenged to achieve them, but can still realistically do so within a reasonable amount of time.
Corporate bullying. Bullying in the workplace is a hot topic at the moment, and not one that usually resolves itself quickly. Although it can be difficult to spot in the moment, you should take a good look at any bullying behaviour from management towards employees. Bullying causes morale to drop and productivity rates to plummet. When employees feel bullied, they’re more likely to behave in ways that are detrimental to their own success and to the success of other employees.
Negativity. When negativity spreads like wildfire through your workplace, it can damage morale, productivity, and relationships between co-workers. You should make an effort to build positivity into your management style; be positive about the work that you do with your employees, and make a conscious effort to develop a positive relationship with all of your employees. Negative people don’t only affect the work environment—they also tend to bring others down, which can cause a ripple effect throughout an entire company.
Inconsistent enforcement of policies and rules. If you enforce a rule one way for one employee and another way for another employee, both employees will be confused about what is expected of them. It’s important to treat your employees equally and establish a more solid system for policy enforcement. If you change the way you enforce a rule from one day to the next, or if policies are enforced inconsistently even within your own department, then it means that something must be wrong with your system, and you should investigate what makes your method of enforcement so flimsy.
Unclear job expectations. If employees aren’t clear about what is expected of them, they will struggle to complete their jobs well; it’s as simple as that. This problem is especially common in small businesses where management practices are less defined than they would be in larger corporations. Make an effort to define the role of each employee within your company, and what you hope they will accomplish during their tenure with your business.
Stressful work environment. When employees are constantly stressed by work conditions, there’s generally a larger problem in management that needs to be addressed. An overly stressful work environment takes its toll not only on employees, but also on the work they produce. Establish clear company rules and enforce them consistently to alleviate stress levels among your staff members.
Being an absentee manager. A key part of being a boss is demonstrating that you are willing to get your hands dirty when necessary. If you hire someone because she needs help with a specific project or skill, then demonstrate that you are willing to help her accomplish the task. If she doesn’t ask for help, offer it anyway. There’s no harm in being an active manager—in fact, it will benefit both you and your employees in the long run.
Expecting too much from employees. When employers expect too much of their employees without providing additional support, it can make the employees feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated. If you ask too much of your employees without offering them substantial support, they won’t feel like they are being treated fairly or that what they are doing is meaningful or important.
Lack of open lines of communication. Employees who lack open lines of communication with their boss are employees who lack clear direction; employees need to be told what’s expected of them, and they need the chance to ask questions about their work. If you’re not open with your employees, then they will struggle to do even the most basic parts of their job.
Taking credit for other people’s work. Your company depends on all of the hard work that you and your employees put into it, so always give them credit for their accomplishments. If an employee does something great, don’t just pat yourself on the back—make sure they know how proud of them you are, and make every effort to acknowledge their efforts in front of customers or clients.
Employees who receive recognition and praise work harder and more productively. Give credit where credit is due, and make sure that your employees feel like they are making a difference in each project they complete for the company.
Favouritism . If you play favourites with your employees, it can make others feel undervalued and resentful; this will cause them to perform poorly, and could even lead to their quitting the company. Don’t play favourites, and don’t let your emotions dictate how you treat employees—instead, create a system of rewards for hard work that applies regardless of whom it is given to.
Lack of career development opportunities . If your employee isn’t growing in her position with your company, then she will consider you to be a bad boss; worse, she may choose to look for new employment elsewhere. Provide opportunities for professional and personal growth within your company, and make sure that employees know where they can go to keep moving towards their goals.