Employee conflict is often a fact of life. If you force a certain number of people to be in a room together, opinions, personalities, and ideas will clash. Conflict can be valuable to a certain extent in that it helps individuals to see new ideas, think of more creative approaches, and find solutions that make more people happy.
But, if teams are always fighting, you have real interpersonal conflict, or people just aren’t getting along, it will get in the way of productivity.
Reducing employee conflict and boosting team communication will almost always result in greater productivity, greater teamwork, and improved team satisfaction, because people know how to communicate with each other. These 4 steps will help get you there.
1. Offer Emotional Intelligence Training
Emotional intelligence is often talked about but it’s an important thing to consider for your teams. Here, individuals with low emotional intelligence will often argue because they don’t understand the base emotional reasoning behind communication from their teammates.
Emotional intelligence training, training on body-language, and training in different styles of communication can help you to reduce problems simply because individuals better understand what others are trying to say. EQ training also helps team members to better understand why others might not be doing something, so they can respond empathetically rather than simply reacting.
2. Review Formal Processes and Options
Everyone should have formal communication processes in which they can be heard but also in which they have to listen. Creating formal processes for sharing new ideas, filing complaints about others, that encourage collaboration, and that share responsibility and therefore credit and reward across the entire team will greatly improve communication.
Why? Internal conflicts can arise through problems as simple as individuals using different communication mediums. If Steve is a 9-5 type worker and prefers receiving emails, he will be upset at Sarah for sending him texts about work when he’s off the clock.
Similarly, if your front-end development team is communicating on a platform like Jira and your backend team on another platform like Asana, you might run into issues because communication isn’t handled the same way. Set up formal processes so that everyone communicates in the same way, has guidelines for when to share, and can step outside of those processes to file complaints when something goes wrong.
3. Create Space for Everyone to Share
One of the easiest ways to improve team communication is to create specific instances in which people can share anything, communicate as a team, and move forward. Weekly sessions where everyone is given a few minutes to talk are one idea to achieve this. For example, if everyone can talk about what they are doing, why, and what they want to achieve, while sharing personal updates when necessary/wanted, they can much more easily interact and work together.
Creating space for everyone to share may also mean reviewing how managers or Scrum masters run meetings to ensure no one is receiving favoritism, everyone has time to give input, and people are sharing when and why they don’t like something or they feel overloaded.
4. Understand Who Is In Your Team
Employee conflict can often be solved by giving individuals the tools to understand how and what is being communicated and to ensure communication is handled in the same way. When combined with quality management, these measures can work wonders. Sometimes this isn’t the case. There will be instances in which people just don’t fit. These often relate to personality conflicts, where one or more individuals simply do not get along.
You can work to resolve and avoid these types of issues using personality and behavioral assessments, which will allow you to understand the overall personality of a team and of an individual, so that you can work to improve placement. It’s important to keep in mind that teams must be composed of a mix of personalities and cultures, but you also want to ensure people do not specifically clash.
HR controls numerous tools that can help to reduce employee conflict. Making them work involves understanding your teams, where conflict comes from, and taking targeted steps to improve problems and reduce issues around it.