Gossiping, insults, backbiting, and other forms of workplace conflict can spread as quickly as the measles at Disneyland. So how do you tactfully confront the employees who are regularly attacking each other, get them to work out their differences peacefully, and finally get back to work?
1. Set a zero-tolerance policy of gossiping, bullying, or offensive language. Although some forms of conflict are healthy for an organization, any type of disrespectful conflict is unacceptable. Employees should never be allowed to attack a coworker (or vendor, customer, or any other person for that matter) with derogatory comments, blatantly mean behavior, or any other form of bullying. If you don’t have a similar policy, get one setup right away. Hold a special meeting to discuss the policy and make sure everybody is aware of it.
2. Enforce your zero-tolerance policy. Don’t ignore violations of your zero-tolerance policy. When you (or a manager) catch wind of any inappropriate language or behaviors, stop it immediately and meet with all involved. Ignoring any such behavior will give misperceptions of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior at work, which may potentially lead to a discrimination claim in the future. Although it sounds time-intensive to jump on every infraction, the intensity will decrease once you’ve set the standard. You’ll also be saving the company thousands of dollars in absenteeism, turnover, and other workplace problems in the long run…
3. Allow employees (not just managers) to resolve conflict. When two (or more) employees are obviously at odds with each other, meet with them individually to hear all sides of the story. If they aren’t comfortable speaking verbally about it, have them write down their feelings and experiences of what has happened. Listen and/or read through the grievances and validate each one. Then bring all involved together and, as the manager, facilitate the discussion. Have them brainstorm solutions and allow them to act upon the solutions that are mutually agreed upon, with a planned follow-up discussion to see how the solution is working. Warn them that any conflict that arises at any future point must be handled respectfully or be subject to discipline.
As an employer, it’s part of your job to ensure that employees feel safe coming to work. Setting a standard of acceptable behavior and empowering your employees to handle conflict respectfully will help create a safe environment, as well as establish a great company culture. For more information, please contact us.
Have a backbiting problem at work? Address it head-on or your morale will suffer.