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Dealing with Employee Interdependency-based Conflict

employee morale and productivity suffers

Is your work environment stressful and tense due to co-worker’s negative attitudes and conflicts? Are employees becoming less and less motivated? Does it seem like the communication between some co-workers is nonexistent? Your company may be experiencing interdependency-based conflict. Many times, an employee must complete a portion of the job before it goes onto a second employee. If the first employee is late or performs incomplete or sloppy work, co-workers, naturally get upset. How can they perform their job at exceptional standards when the problem is out-of-their hands? Productivity suffers when an employee feels their hands are tied and cannot produce quality work. A company’s reputation and trust begin to deteriorate as the company’s most valuable resources, employee morale and quality work, are at risk.

"We often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, over-reacting to minor things and sometimes taking things too personally." -- The Dalai Lama

waiting increases the need for conflict management

The problem generally does not surface up the leadership ladder, until employee attitudes are formed against one another, resentment begins to fester, and payback or competition is in full action. It starts the “ole snowball effect” of fighting for survival. If one or more employees wear their feelings on their shoulders or are sensitive to personal threats, watch out, you have an explosion waiting to happen. I have seen it several times and it is not pretty. The problem becomes more volatile, when one of these key players is an integral part of the leadership team. An intervention of conflict management is fast approaching on the horizon; usually from an outside third party conflict management coach like myself.

many causes contribute to the problem

Many times, the problem is a misunderstanding between co-workers, lack of effective workflow processes, unbalanced work responsibilities or lack of time management. Sometimes it is lack of training or understanding of the big picture. It is not unusual for leadership to be unaware of the conflict, or do not realize the severity and damage of the rivalry, until well past the simple solution of sitting down to iron out the miscommunication. Third party employee conflict management can help. I can help.

What are some steps to resolve the issue?

  1. Listen to the employee’s side – while listening to their explanation of the problem, determine how much of their content is the actual problem and how much has been significantly blown up and exaggerated due to sitting in the problem for some time.

  2. Keep in mind that the process is to work backwards. Frustration from legitimate grievances need validations, and frustration from the snowball affect of time, need identified and separated from the streamlined work process failure.

  3. Once feelings are appropriately defined and validated, consideration and brainstorming occur to identify the initial cause of the problem. Involving the concerned employees is crucial to discover the real cause. Of course, their mindset must go from victim to being part of the solution. This empowers them and will create a more positive working environment from the current tense, stressful environment.

  4. Finally, after solutions are identified, periodic follow-up for effectiveness of the solutions and improvement of the employees’ attitudes and work performance, should be done in a non-threatening or intimidating way. Done effectively, employees feel valued that the evaluation process is remembered.

"You can't control everything. Sometimes you just need to relax and have faith that things will work out. Let go a little and just let life happen." -- Kody Keplinger

get help resolving employee conflict

If you or your employees are experiencing interdependency-based conflict, coaching can help. The process usually starts with some kind of assessment and then a strategy is created. Knowing the conversation has started brings relief to those involved as there is hope for a solution. Next, the focus turns to finding mutually, agreeable solutions and implementing those solutions, in a positive, employee involved manner. Everyone wins when you calm your mind and body of the stress and emotional noise.

Many years my friend, many years....

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