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How to manage employees who don’t get along

How to manage employees who don’t get along

Personality clashes are inevitable, but here are some steps you can take to make sure they don’t have a detrimental effect on your workplace culture, writes Amanda Clark for Plumber Magazine

Most of us have people who just rub us the wrong way. It’s part of human nature. You’re not going to like everyone all the time, and sooner or later, you’re bound to encounter people you simply don’t get along with. But what happens when this kind of friction manifests in the workplace? As a team leader, you may occasionally find yourself frustrated by employees who clash and whose discord spills over into poor morale or lackluster customer service. How can you manage employees who struggle to get along? Here are a few suggestions for handling tension without allowing it to impact the morale of your team.

Handling employee discord

First and foremost, make sure you don’t allow these broken relationships to fester. Discord and conflict have a tendency to sour and bubble over into all aspects of your work culture. Over time, unaddressed conflicts can have a harmful effect on employees, customers and your bottom line.

Beyond that, consider a few management solutions:

  • Get to the bottom of the problem. Talk to each employee individually to try to get a sense of what’s causing the tension. If it’s an issue related to bullying, discrimination or harassment, that may require a fairly robust human resources response. But it’s just as likely to be a simple clash of personality types, a sense that one employee isn’t pulling their weight or a disagreement over workplace roles and responsibilities. Don’t make assumptions about what’s causing conflict. Instead, do your due diligence.
  • Facilitate a conversion between your employees. Ask the aggrieved parties to sit down and talk together about the source of their tension. Make it clear that you’re not there to solve the problem for them, but do provide some talking points or some ground-level expectations for a respectful and civil discourse.
  • Always be there to listen. Remember that most employees who are experiencing workplace tension just want to be heard and acknowledged. Make sure you’re giving your ear to each party, allowing them plenty of opportunity to share what’s bothering them and always affirming that you know where they’re coming from. This doesn’t mean you agree with everything they say. It just means you’re listening respectfully.
  • Seek the real sources of tension. In speaking with your employees, make it your mission to cut through some of the high emotions and arrive at the real source of the problem together.
  • Consult your handbook. This is where having an employee handbook, or a comparable HR resource, is invaluable. Often, workplace conflicts stem from disagreements over roles, policies or expectations. Having an external source you can point to helps you suggest a way forward for the team without it seeming like you’re taking a side.
  • Follow up. Be sure you check back in with your employees to gauge how satisfied they are with the dialogue. Make it clear you remain open to any necessary discussions about workplace issues and applaud employees who show a willingness to work through their issues in a respectful way.

These are some basic steps managers can take to help employees who are struggling through personality clashes. Remember, the most important steps you can take are to respond early and to be a good, active listener at all times.

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