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Lets all get along

Letting “professional differences” or “personality clashes” go too far

Lets all get along

It would be a very rare workplace indeed if every staff member “got along” with each other all, or even most, of the time. Fortunately, different perspectives and workplace opinions can not only be a sign of healthy professional workplace relationships, but can also result in improved business performance and efficiencies on a number of different levels.

The difficult issue for many businesses and organisations is determining when professional or workplace differences need to be scrutinised more closely. Sometimes this is necessary to avoid an all too common situation: workplace differences that were seemingly “trivial” or apparently caused by differing personality types or management styles, escalate to a complete breakdown of workplace relations, performance and productivity and/or the institution of formal complaints, compensation and work health safety claims.

If you or a manager is receiving constant informal complaints or comments about a particular staff members’ actions or conduct, then it is probably a good time to look at the situation more closely. “Constant” complaints or comments in this sense may mean that you have received more than the odd complaint or comment over the course of several weeks or months. These complaints or comments may range from negative feedback about how X generally handles situations, communicates with staff or customers and general personality clashes through to criticism of X’s performance of their duties or allegations of misconduct.

Another sign that further scrutiny or action may be warranted is when staff absenteeism starts to rise, there is a subtle “taking of sides” occurring amongst staff or work units and/or a general or targeted breakdown in effective, respectful and courteous communication.

Further action or scrutiny may simply entail having a confidential but informal chat with each of the staff members involved to provide them with an opportunity to raise any issues or concerns they may have; including obtaining their input in relation to possible solutions or areas for improvement. Provided this is done objectively, impartially, sensitively and without any blame or findings of fault, this process may be invaluable in assisting you to determine how best to proceed. Generally speaking, staff appreciate being consulted and are more willing to work collaboratively to try and address and resolve workplace issues if they feel their concerns have been considered and that their input is valued.

In other situations it may be more appropriate to then commence a more formal or structured process in order to appropriately address or resolve the workplace issues. Possible options in this regard may range from structured team building activities or further training through to a workplace review, workplace counselling and mediation or an informal or formal workplace investigation.

The most important thing to remember when faced with escalating differences of opinion, personality clashes or workplace conflict is do not ignore them in the hope that they will eventually go away! Being proactive in the early stages of escalating workplace conflict will hopefully help you to avoid the serious impact these types of issues may ultimately have on your business or organisation.

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