Conflict is inevitable, especially in the workplace. Not everybody will see eye to eye all the time. The larger your team, the more likely it is people will disagree at one point or another.
Sometimes, conflict is even desirable! Conflict between two employees could push an idea further or spur a race that invigorates sales.
At other times, though, conflict causes workplace harm. It can be tempting for HR to shut down conflict as soon as it arises. Yet you could be jeopardizing healthy growth for employees or the company if you get involved if there’s even so much as a whisper of upset. That in and of itself can also be harmful.
So, how do you know when it’s time to get involved with workplace conflicts? The key is being able to differentiate which conflicts are damaging and which ones are likely to be resolved without your assistance. Looking at some of the following aspects can help you make the call on any conflict.
How Personal Is the Disagreement?
There’s a line between respectful disagreement and personal attack. Employees can disagree on how a project should be executed or about budget numbers. They may even disagree about which candidate to hire, who deserves a promotion, or who deserves a raise.
For the most part, HR doesn’t need to get involved if the employees are being respectful of one another. It’s one thing to disagree about which candidate to hire. It’s another to suggest someone who disagrees with your choice is unintelligent.
Employees who let disagreements get personal will likely need to be guided to resolution by HR. Otherwise, the workplace might suffer. Two employees in a disagreement may engage in petty or passive-aggressive behaviour that puts others on edge. They may even try to “recruit” others to their side, creating divisions within the office.
Personal attacks should not be tolerated, nor should bullying behaviour. If a disagreement seems to move into the realm of the personal, then HR should most definitely step in.
The Disagreement Is Damaging the Workplace Atmosphere
Another sign that HR needs to step in is when a disagreement begins to affect the workplace environment as a whole. We already mentioned instances where employees create divisions or engage in aggressive behaviour that puts their other co-workers on edge.
The disagreement could create tension for other employees. It might make only one or two employees upset, but it could also affect entire teams or departments. Ideally, HR should have moved to resolve the conflict before it reaches this stage, but that’s not always possible.
People Are Threatening to Quit
Whether it’s one of the employees involved in the conflict or other team members, anyone saying they’ll tender their resignation should be taken seriously. Recruiting, onboarding, and training are very costly, and there’s a chance you’ll lose talented team members you can’t replace.
HR should be involved in conflicts that make anyone want to leave their post. You may not be able to resolve them the way the employee wants, but you can most definitely try to come to a solution that keeps everyone (mostly) happy.
Hold Everyone to the Same Standard
Codes of conduct are important documents because they tell your team members what’s expected of them in the workplace. They also give you the backing to address employees who breach their terms.
Some breaches of code are more serious than others. Any time harassment, bullying, or other allegations are made, HR should be involved and a full investigation should be undertaken.
You should also be aware of when to call in outside assistance to mediate a conflict. More serious allegations could require outside expertise and a neutral third party.
HR doesn’t need to be involved in every argument, but meditating and managing conflict the right way can make the workplace environment a more fruitful place to be.