This is a guest post by James Lambka. James is an attorney at Wiener&Lambka.
It’s been said that employees don’t quit jobs – they quit bosses. There’s a lot of truth in that, but quite a bit more to it, really. It might be more accurate to say that employees quit bad work environments, rather than quitting actual jobs. So employers, managers, and HR directors should always strive to create a great work environment – one that surrounds employees with what they need for job satisfaction and facilitates swift, satisfactory conflict resolution. But what does that look like?
Characteristics of the Ideal Work Environment
The ingredients that go into making what we call a work environment are many, for example, company location, actual facilities, company culture, employee-employer interactions, and growth opportunities. And the ideal work environment has certain defining characteristics. It may have more, but it will have the following at least.
Reciprocal Expectations and Communication
Bosses and managers have to be leaders who clearly communicate company strategies, objectives, goals, guidelines, and expectations. They also have to abide by them and hold themselves to the same standards they do employees. Otherwise, they may be facing anarchy and have to spend too much time and energy on conflict resolution.
It’s all about the relationship, and that has to be built on open two-way communication. Ideally, employers will provide a platform or channel for employees to express opinions and concerns. And employers have to act on suggestions/concerns, or employee participation in communication will dry up. Employees have to know that bosses, managers, and HR people value their contributions.
Emphasis on Work-Life Balance
In addition, the ideal work environment shouldn’t ask employees to sacrifice too much of their personal interests, needs, and goals in order to further their careers. Employees should, rather, be encouraged to strike a reasonable balance between work demands and personal life. Employees shouldn’t have to work loads of extra hours to advance, and supervisors and managers should help employees achieve balance.
Opportunities for Training and Development
In order to attract and retain the best talent, employers simply must offer opportunities for training, development, and growth. The ideal work environment, then – one that keeps top talent around and has little need for conflict resolution – provides challenges and opportunities for progression to keep employees motivated and to keep them from stagnating. Training and development programs should also include components treating interpersonal skills, team building, effective communication, and conflict resolution – all of which can lead to both higher productivity and greater satisfaction levels.
Recognition/Rewards for Achievement/Performance
In almost every situation, everyone is happier and more productive when his or her hard work and accomplishments are recognized and rewarded in some way. So the ideal work environment is one where employees’ efforts are rewarded and encouraged. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be individual monetary rewards. Sometimes, just verbal recognition from a supervisor is enough. Employers do need to make sure they recognize and reward both individual and team performance to ensure employees give their best.
Strategies and Tactics for Avoiding Conflicts and for Conflict Resolution
Despite your best efforts to create a great work environment, sometimes things still go wrong. It’s just inevitable that when two or more human beings work together, there will be differences and tensions – and decreased productivity as a result. The key is deploying effective conflict-resolution strategies before the conflicts escalate. So here are the top-5 tips for managing workplace conflict (Goalcast):
Understand Causes of Conflict
Understanding the causes of anything can help you deal with it more effectively, and so it is with workplace conflict. While the causes of conflict may be internal, psychological, or emotional and not necessarily objective (because the conditions may be merely perceived), they are no less real to the person experiencing them. Top causes include:
- Stress/job dissatisfaction
- Violation of personal space
- Workload inequality
- Disputes over duties/quality of work
Establish Clear Expectations and Guidelines
Many of the causes of conflict can be avoided when clear expectations and guidelines are established early on. Employee handbooks and guidelines should include clear job descriptions, scope of authority, chain of command, and behaviors/actions that will not be tolerated.
Create a Good Environment
A good work environment will not only aid in avoiding workplace conflict, but will dispose employees to speedily resolving conflicts if they do arise. An important aspect of the environment here is supervisors and managers who serve as exceptional role models.
Foster Open Communication
Open communication is critical both for avoiding conflict and for effective conflict resolution. Open, effective channels of communication will help ensure that employee concerns, irritations, and perceived wrongs don’t fester and escalate.
Call on HR
The HR department can be an invaluable resource when in it comes to conflict avoidance and conflict resolution. “Preventing and addressing workplace conflict is a critical function for a human resources department, and your HR team should be well-trained and properly educated about how to handle these issues” (Goalcast).
What to Do When Conflict Goes Beyond HR
But occasionally, even in a great work environment, disagreements can escalate and get out of hande. In 2014 “409 people were fatally injured in work-related attacks (NSC). And for people in healthcare and professional and business services, violence (including concussion and other traumatic brain injury) is the third leading cause of death (NSC).
While the incidence of workplace violence remains grossly under-reported (Rave Mobile Safety), enough does get reported to let us know that it’s a genuine problem. It’s just a fact that employees, especially those in psychiatric healthcare, can become victims of physical attack on the job, with concussions and other head injuries being a common outcome. In such an instance, your best recourse is to call on attorneys who have special expertise in this area.