The 4 P’s of Employee Relations and Conflict Management in the Workplace

Workplace conflict costs $359 billion in paid hours or 385 million working days annually. This is according to the “Workplace Conflict and How Business Can Harness it to Thrive” report.

There were news articles about Apple employees having concerns about the ‘rigid’ rules in hybrid working, while Google’s people were frustrated about the ‘two tiers’ remote working.

No wonder why in the month of April 2021, the Great Resignation started happening.

Given the diverse range of expenses related to workplace conflicts, it becomes imperative for organizations to prioritize conflict prevention, early intervention, and constructive resolution strategies.

By fostering a positive work culture that promotes open communication, respect, and collaboration, companies can effectively reduce the financial burdens associated with workplace conflicts and cultivate a more productive and supportive environment for their employees.

To avoid conflict and maintain positive employee relations, certain aspects must be present in your workplace. These aspects will help facilitate good working relations toward achieving the business goals.

1. Personable

Personable engagement with employees is among the leading traits of leaders in a management capacity. The slippery slope between being “friends” with your team and maintaining a strictly working relationship is hard to nail, but an important one to focus on nevertheless.

Professional and consistent employee engagement is the first step towards building a healthy company culture where employees feel valued and appreciated. Such engagement also provides considerable advantages to the business, including:

  • Better alignment between personal goals and professional needs. A potential misalignment leads to lower satisfaction, higher turnover, and lower work productivity.
  • Brand awareness. Happy employees are happy to brag about their workplace, share stories, represent the company in the best possible manner. This supports marketing and sales, as well as recruitment.
  • Less workplace drama. Backstabbing or internal conflicts can be devastating for any organization. Satisfied employees work together and deliver more as a team.
  • Reduced expenses for turnover and recruitment. Engaged employees stick around for a longer period of time, climbing up the corporate ladder. This is an opportunity for growing teams, appointing team leaders and managers, and assigning responsibilities to key stakeholders within the organization.
  • Transparent communication. Employee engagement also covers proactiveness, initiative, self-management. Instead of shepherding your team, you can trust them, gather invaluable insights, and make sure goals are being met.
  • Additional commitment. Engaged employees are more likely to put the extra time and effort whenever necessarily. That may include overtime, attending meetups, or answering client emails over the weekend.
  • Overall lower costs. Startups and small teams often compete with larger companies due to their culture and purpose, not through big paychecks and employment packages. Professionals want to invest their working hours in a purposeful initiative while working on a great team.
employee relations and conflict management

2. Professional

Professionalism is about hitting milestones and delivering high quality while presenting yourself (and the brand) as a market leader.

Interestingly enough, that has nothing to do with the day-to-day activities at the office. You can pretty much turn your office into a football stadium or build your walls with LEGO as long as your team can get their work done as expected.

This is why professionalism is an integral component of the company culture. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be boring, cold, and depressing. In fact, plenty of companies are openly showcasing their own culture in a friendlier way.

You can see Instagram photos and stories from professional companies who are having a lot of fun at the workplace celebrating holidays or organizing parties for project launches. Even random fun videos and Tumblr accounts are not uncommon for most modern organizations – even across companies like Google popular for their workplaces (and various employee benefits).

As an employer:

  1. Make sure you find the right balance between flexibility and responsibility.
  2. Give your staff freedom so long as they adhere to the quality standards of their work.
  3. Don’t tolerate sloppiness but make it clear that their behavior is acceptable within the norms for those who take their job duties seriously.
  4. Organize workshops or other internal meetings where people are welcome to give their ideas without being judged or harassed.
  5. Continuously repeat that proactiveness is rewarded. Give props or bonuses to those who come up with innovative ideas that would help the business.
  6. Take your team to a team-building party a couple of times. Let them see your personality after business hours. People often forget that a corporate hustler can be a friendly fellow at a bar and both things can live separately.
  7. Foster proactivity in your management team as well. Your company culture translates from top to bottom – and everyone on your team should have direct access to leadership sharing the company values.
employee relations

3. Proactive

How to enforce a proactive mindset to conflict and misbehavior in the workplace?

Understanding Employee Dynamics and Potential Conflict Causes

Any deviations from the standard protocol cause friction. When added up, those are often a valid reason for an employee to file their resignation letter and look for a company employing a better work culture. Not to mention the legal implications for many of those activities that violate the acceptable code of conduct.

Generally speaking, we all live according to a globally acceptable moral code. Everyone treats that slightly differently – some people are more emotional, enjoy dirty jokes, or employ a different form of misbehavior within a larger group.

Professional conduct at the workplace ensures that employees wouldn’t need to bother with a demeanor that contradicts with their perception of life. This includes any forms of cues and intimations regarding gender, race, religion, culture and the like.

Some employees may be more open-minded and chill compared to others. But an insult at the office, irresponsible managers, constant stress are unacceptable and organizations try to take care of those whenever they notice any problematic behavior.

Dealing with Misbehaviors and Employees’ Setbacks

Simply put, the general purpose of a business is to solve a problem and charge for it. The business model itself revolves around offering paid products or services for a given market, hiring industry experts who can serve the clients.

Misbehavior at the office will cause stress and impact the quality of work. This has a direct impact on retention and the corporate brand. Tolerating unprofessional behavior is an expensive and risky experiment that may collapse the entire business – hence it’s importance from senior management and all corresponding parties.

I realize that many managers enforce the wrong attitude in their teams (or turn it into a power play). A situation may escalate and an employee may get passionate in the moment. Given other situations that may occur in the business, this should be considered because we don’t want to replicate the same situation all over.

One of my engineers was fired due to poor performance. I spoke to his former manager prior to sending a formal offer. I got some valuable insight and possible areas that I should pay attention to.

But this developer has been with us for 8 months now and we can confidently say that he has been diligent and motivated as an integral part of our team. There have been some quality or communication issues reported to us that weren’t as obvious for our team. Productivity improvement was a combination of:

  • The employee learned a valuable lesson in the previous organization.
  • The former team wasn’t as well aligned as ours – therefore preventing the employee from acting as they would as a freelancer or a consultant.
  • The workflow (and the business model) of the former organization was different from ours.

While we’ve also declined offers after talking to managers and comparing stories, there have been certain cases where the feedback has been valuable and the employee would still have been a good fit for the job.

4. Positive

Advocating for positive leadership among all management positions and the organization as a whole.

Leadership  in the Office

Leadership is the first obvious step toward defining the goals of the company in a well-structured manner which transfers down to the senior management and then to entry-level folks and employees.

You want to make sure that your team doesn’t divert too much off the right path. Larger corporations may be able to afford to employ applicants who are not a “perfect fit”, but smaller and mid-sized organizations still need to strengthen the core and the first few layers of communication within the team and with 3rd parties.

How Good Managers Grow

Rapid context switching between the global landscape and specific issues in hand.

Not all editors are great writers.

Not every developer makes a great team leader or a technical project manager.

Most people excel at just one thing – strategy or implementation. For instance, hiring a marketing strategist for content writing or social media management may be less productive than hiring a purist writer with little to no understanding of the marketing landscape.

Great managers have often grown within an organization starting from a low-paid, intense job as a clerk or a regular employee. They have excelled at their duties, generated good results, and received several promotions until landing a senior management offer.

Selecting The Great Manager

Not all employees are great management material.

As an employee, your goal is to deliver maximum ROI through your own work.

  • A developer should be fast, deliver high-quality and scalable code, avoid pitfalls and regressions.
  • A marketer should fine-tune their craft and spark engagement, or sift through data to discover patterns.
  • A lawyer should get the right paperwork in place and monitor for caveats or new regulations to be adapted.

You can see the difference from a distance, the poor employee causes troubles, loops other people in (to clean up the mess), misses deadlines, and incurs overhead.

Managers, on the other hand, have to exclude themselves from the equation.

Great managers work for their teams.

They want them to succeed, get better at what they do, feel respected at the workplace, get promotion and advancement opportunities. Management is about everyone else — but you.

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