In a world where workplace harmony sometimes seems like a distant dream, managers hold the key to turning discord into unity. Fortunately, there are countless ways managers can unite a divided workplace and turn these challenges into opportunities for collaboration and success.

The stakes are high. Division among team members can lead to decreased productivity, lower morale, and communication breakdowns. 

Generation Z enters the workforce. Gen Z’s fresh expectations and digital savvy are not just changing the game — they’re also stirring the pot. These newcomers can potentially spark new conflicts as they work to blend their modern viewpoints with traditional work settings.

As a manager, it’s your job to transform a divided workplace into a supportive environment by learning how to handle conflict at work. Let’s explore practical strategies and statistics you need to know to unite your team, boost morale, and ensure everyone feels valued. 

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Why are divisions occurring in the workplace? 

From clashing personalities to cultural differences, workplace divisions are a growing challenge. 

Concerningly, coaching and training firm Bravely found that 53% of employees handle “toxic” situations by avoiding them. Even worse, averting a problematic conversation can cost a company an average of $7,500 and waste over seven working days.

Too many leaders ignore conflict until it escalates and potentially leads to employee turnover — but you’re not like those people. You’re actively seeking opportunities to get everyone on the same page and facing challenges head-on, and we’re right there with you.  

Before we can fix any issues, let’s start by getting to the root of the problem so we can work to prevent it in the future.

Communication breakdowns 

When communication breaks down, it can lead to misunderstandings, decreased productivity, and strained relationships among team members. 

On the other hand, good communication in the workplace can lead to better innovation, creative idea ideas, and an easier time meeting project deadlines. Above all else, solid communication shows mutual respect and helps bring your team closer.  

Nearly half of workers report their productivity being affected by ineffective communication - unite a divided team

- Forbes

Here are some practical tips to prevent communication breakdowns:

  • Promote open dialogue. One proven method to promote open dialogue in the workplace is to establish regular “office hours” where team members can drop in and discuss anything with their managers without prior scheduling. 
  • Use precise language. Using clear, concise, and (perhaps most importantly) jargon-free language can help ensure that messages are not lost in translation. 
  • Adopt a single communication platform. Pick your favorite tool, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, and stick to it to centralize communication. These platforms allow for real-time and asynchronous communication, ensuring that messages are clear and accessible to all team members. 

Clear and effective communication is the cornerstone of a productive workplace, fostering understanding, collaboration, and positive relationships among team members.

Diverse perspectives and differences

Embracing and managing diverse perspectives is crucial for fostering a collaborative and innovative workplace. 

Diverse perspectives can cause rifts in the workplace when not handled correctly, but they’re also vital for innovation and lead to increased profits.  

Helping your team find shared values and a common mission can help reduce the friction caused by different perspectives and unite a divided team.

McKinsey & Company’s latest research finds that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians

Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. 

McKinsey & Company

Here are some practical tips to effectively handle and embrace diversity: 

  • Encourage generational collaboration. Facilitate mentorship programs or training sessions that help bridge understanding between different age groups. We recommend focusing on the unique perspectives brought by Generation Z and working to reduce culture clashes. 
  • Implement diversity training. Regular diversity and inclusion training can equip employees with the skills to understand and appreciate each other’s differences. 
  • Find a shared purpose. Help your team understand that they have common goals and depend on each other for success. 

Recognizing and valuing differences in your team can enhance cohesion and productivity, paving the way for a more harmonious (and profitable) workplace. 

Power dynamics and politics 

When left unchecked, power dynamics and internal politics can negatively impact workplace harmony and team member morale. 

Over 60% of team members work alongside co-workers who do not share their political affiliations. But, encouragingly, the Economic Policy Institute has found that most people do not pick their workplace based on the political views of their co-workers or managers.

60% of team members work alongside co-workers who do not share their political affiliations

- Economic Policy Institute

Still, there are times when political differences and power dynamics can impact your team, and as a manager, you need to be on top of them. 

Here are practical steps to manage and mitigate these influences:

  • Promote transparency. Ensure that decision-making processes are transparent and involve input from various levels of the organization.
  • Establish clear policies. Implement fair and transparent policies that govern promotions, recognitions, and conflict resolutions to avoid perceptions of favoritism or unfair advantage.

Managers can help prevent conflicts and build a more equitable and cooperative workplace environment by addressing these power dynamics openly and fairly.

Strategies to prevent conflict in the workplace

At a time when workplace unity is consistently at risk, managers play a crucial role in fostering a culture of collaboration.

Over a third (36%) of workers currently report they deal with conflict often, compared to 29% previously — a number that has doubled since 2008.

Time spent on workplace conflict has doubled since 2008. 

The Myers-Briggs Company

Here are several effective strategies that leaders can implement to prevent conflicts and maintain a positive workplace atmosphere. 

Encourage co-operation

Building a cooperative atmosphere is critical to maintaining a positive workplace. 

Feuding co-workers make up around 50% of all grievances raised in the workplace. It’s vital to get ahead of these issues by creating a culture that encourages collaboration and cooperation.  

Steps to encourage cooperation

  • Organize team-building activities. Plan and execute activities that encourage employees to work together and develop stronger relationships. This can include outdoor retreats, group exercises, team challenges, and volunteer opportunities.
  • Promote collaborative projects. Assign tasks that require cooperation and coordination among team members. Employees can work towards common objectives by leveraging their diverse skills and perspectives.
  • Incentivize team achievements. Recognize and reward collaborative efforts by incentivizing team achievements. Consider offering team bonuses and awards to encourage collaboration.

By implementing these approaches, organizations can create a culture that prioritizes cooperation and helps create a positive work environment for all.

Enhance communication

Managers should promote clear and open communication channels to prevent conflict and foster collaboration. 

This can be achieved through regular team meetings, transparent updates, and open-door policies, ensuring that all team members are well-informed and engaged.

Lack of effective communication within the workplace can create an atmosphere of uncertainty that can ultimately harm a company’s growth and success. 

That’s where these steps to improve communication come into play. 

Steps to improve communication

  1. Listen actively. Encourage everyone to practice active listening, which involves paying close attention to the speaker — not preparing to speak while others are talking. With active listening, it’s crucial to understand before responding.
  2. Clarify and confirm. Ensure that messages are clear and understood by all parties involved. Encourage employees to repeat or summarize what they've heard to confirm understanding. This can also help reduce the chance of miscommunication.
  3. Use multiple communication channels. Recognize that different people prefer different communication methods. Use a mix of verbal, written, and digital communications to ensure everyone receives and understands messages.

By enhancing communication channels and fostering active listening and clarity, organizations lay the foundation for sustained success.

Improve conflict resolution

Managers should establish clear guidelines for constructively resolving disputes before they happen. This preparation equips team members to handle disagreements effectively before they escalate.

The first step when dealing with conflict in the workplace is understanding how different people deal with conflict.

What are the 5 methods of conflict resolution?

The Thomas-Kilman conflict management framework lays out these five conflict resolution styles. 

  1. Avoidance. Individuals involved ignore or avoid the conflict, leading to unresolved issues that may worsen over time. This style is helpful temporarily to de-escalate very tense situations, but issues will need to be addressed later.
  2. Accommodative. One party wins, and the other loses, causing resentment from the losing side. This resolves the conflict but may only leave some parties satisfied.
  3. Competitive. A win-lose approach where one party prevails at the expense of the other, resolving the issue but not fostering team unity.
  4. Compromise. Both parties make concessions, which may lead to mutual resentment as neither side is fully satisfied, and the best solution may be overlooked.
  5. Collaborative. Involves all parties in the resolution process, promoting active listening and respectful communication to achieve a mutually acceptable solution.

Conflict management steps 

Follow these simple steps to improve your conflict management process:

  1. Identify the issue. Clearly define the conflict and the needs of each party involved. Understanding the root cause is crucial for effective resolution.
  2. Find common ground. Seek areas of agreement or shared goals as a foundation for building a resolution. This helps shift the focus from confrontation to collaboration.
  3. Agree on a plan. Choose the best solution from the options available that balance the interests of all parties. Establish clear steps for implementation and ensure everyone understands their roles in the execution.
  4. Follow-up. After implementing the solution, check back with all parties to ensure that the conflict has been resolved to everyone's satisfaction and that agreed actions are being followed.

By implementing these strategies, managers can significantly reduce the likelihood of conflicts and enhance their teams' overall productivity and morale.

Why is a good work environment so important?

Amidst rising workplace tensions, effective management is more crucial than ever. 

A great work culture isn’t just nice to have; it’s crucial for keeping everyone happy, productive, and working together smoothly. 

Highly engaged teams are 21% more profitable than those with low engagement. 

- Gallup

Nowadays, people look for more than just a paycheck — they want a place to innovate and grow. But what does that look like?

What makes a good work environment?

Keep an eye on the goal at the end of this: a healthy workplace

So, what is a good work environment? That’s the final question you should ask yourself while reading this. Let’s paint a picture of what that looks like: 

  • Employees receive transparent guidelines regarding roles, responsibilities, and performance standards.
  • Managers develop avenues for continuous learning, skill development, and career advancement that empower employees to progress.
  • The company enables a healthy work-life balance with flexible schedules, adequate time off, and stress management initiatives.
  • A positive culture and an atmosphere of collaboration, respect, and camaraderie among team members. 

A good work environment is about setting teams up for long-term success and making your organization a top choice for the best in the biz. 

By implementing the strategies in this post, business leaders can not only prevent communication breakdowns but also cultivate a cohesive team, positioning themselves as leaders in their industry.

Category: Management