It should come as no surprise that conflict in the workplace will undoubtedly lower motivation in your employees and consequently impact productivity.
“Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It to Thrive” studied its impact, finding that 76% of employees who received training on how to manage conflict among their employees experienced a 41% increase in their understanding of others, and 29% of employees were able to find a better solution to the problem.
But what is the major cause and how can it be resolved or avoided?
Small businesses in particular often suffer from a lag in identifying where the gaps are, because leaner teams usually have a higher number of people taking on a lot more responsibility – which can cause confusion, a lack of developed or formal processes, and unclear communication or direction.
Ambiguity, then, more often than not, is the culprit.
Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to remove ambiguity from your workplace, which will ultimately enable your people to work more efficiently.
Start with communicating clearly.
Many people underestimate the value of clear communication in writing. It trickles down through the little things, like changing the scope of a project or moving a deadline. The best of us often assume that a simple meeting will suffice in delegating new responsibilities and establishing expectations around new completion dates, but we’re usually wrong.
In order for people to be held accountable, they need clear direction – which you can convey easily since you were organized and used a brief during your meeting anyway. In this email, you will essentially recount your discussion in bullet points, calling out any responsibilities that are particular to people on your team so that people know what they’re doing and can figure out how to go about it.
Next, and as part of your clearer communication strategy, you will invest in adding to the paper trail by setting a follow-up meeting (and remembering that it can always be postponed or moved up depending on progress.) Telling your team you’re “probably going to meet in another week or two” is unclear, and will undo all efforts that have been made to move things forward. Make a promise to follow-up at a specific time on a specific date, and don’t hesitate to send out the meeting invite so that everyone involved can accept it. Your people will have this defined deadline to work toward and you can make it clear that you’re open to feedback or questions if there is concern around timing.
Be structured and lead by example.
Last, you will have to hold everyone involved accountable and lead by example. This could include creating formalized processes – which could mean more work for leadership, but a more efficient business in the long run. It’s hard to stay committed to creating processes, but a lack of them is probably the most common reason that managers find it difficult to hold their people (and themselves) accountable. It’s also an easy way for employees to avoid taking responsibility when things don’t go as planned. Processes make ownership possible, and ownership enforces quality work.
Eliminating the margin of error, which increases substantially when communication is unclear will do wonders for your business, whether big or small. Every department has its challenges, but at the root of almost every challenge, is a lack of clear communication. Follow these steps to ensure your workplace is free of conflict that can be avoided, and you’ll begin to see a shift in employee morale and productivity.