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5 tips to reducing conflict in the workplace

General

What is the mood like in your workplace? Are staff motivated and thriving, or are there signs of tension?

At AV our employment law team gets the inside view on dozens of workplaces, and over time patterns emerge. From our experience, here are 5 key suggestions which could dramatically improve the vibe in your workplace:

1. Don’t pretend to be a family. When we speak too much of “being like a family” in the workplace, we risk undermining the professional discipline any business requires. You cannot sack family members, but employees need to understand that they must perform, or their tenure is under question.

2. Expect and plan for differences of opinion. Differing ideas are healthy – they promote innovation. No one’s opinion should be sacrosanct. When differing ideas arise, have an open and healthy debate, and then commit to an outcome.

3. Require compliance. Every business needs basic ground rules that everyone follows. If someone routinely ignores the rules, or sees themselves as above them, and there are no consequences, other staff members will become frustrated and lose commitment. Do everyone a favour – if a rule is important, hold everyone to it.

4. Don’t leave issues to fester. The Fair Work Commission expects employers to intervene in a timely way or companies may lose the right to rely on past events in dismissing an employee. More importantly, however, we should never underestimate how unresolved conflict can be toxic to workplaces – often other staff members feel the need to take sides, and this can lead to demotivation, unnecessary sick leave, and eventually to the loss of good staff who are fed up with the antics.

5. Delegate authority to deal with workplace conflict. Team leaders should share responsibility for the behaviour of the staff under their direction. Workplace conflict should never just be left to HR or the directors as they are not usually involved in the day-to-day interactions. Effective management of workplace issues requires those close to the action to be involved in resolving tensions.

Our employment law team has years of experience dealing with these and many other workplace issues. Let us know if you need a hand in this area.

Rod Berry

Managing Partner