Ending Conflict in the Workplace

Conflicts in the workplace can cause stress and anxiety to the victim. As a manager, leader or boss, how can you act appropriately to reduce conflict before it happens?

Jessica was just out of school when she began working as a secretary-trainee for a small company. Howard, a software developer in his mid-20s had the same aspirations as Jessica – a higher income and a certain degree of recognition in the software world.

As things would have it, both Jessica and Howard would encounter not the success they dreamed of, but the frustration of having their ‘dream bubble’ burst right before their eyes. These aspiring professionals were stopped dead in their career tracks not because of some mistake but because of harassment in the workplace. Their ‘fall from corporate grace’ was due to a combination of envy, jealousy, and a fair amount of backtalk from their detractors.

Jessica was caught in the middle of frequent changes in leadership and movement of personnel in their division. Even with her efforts to suggest office innovations and other alternatives to make work efficient, Jessica still became the ‘butt’ of sexist jokes. Her good standing with their one and only boss only made it worse. Her diligent work was always praised within the hearing range of the older employees as well as the new ones – a fact that only made her detractors try even harder to discredit her. Envy really poisons the working atmosphere.

While Jessica became a victim of nasty jokes and false rumours, Howard, for his part, became the office scapegoat. What did Howard do to deserve such treatment? He was confident and brilliant as a software developer with his only perceived weakness was his being the youngest person in the department.

At first, Howard tried to understand why most of his older colleagues were somewhat nasty. He thought that they might be seeking some relief from their personal stress but it started to bother him because their intimidation was becoming more frequent. The taunting and sarcasm eventually caused Howard to suffer anxiety panic attacks. Jessica and Howard are only two among thousands who experience harassment and other forms of bullying in the workplace. Anyone can be a target. Harassment often begins with unresolved conflicts between workmates that could even escalate into problems that would eventually require the attention of management.

Harassment at work is one of the most distracting situations that any worker or professional can face. Work, needless to say, is important not only as a means to have a livelihood. It is also crucial to one’s ego and craving for achievement.

Getting along with everybody is not the solution. It doesn’t mean you have to be a people-pleaser and compromising your principles. Being warm and sincere can melt the cold atmosphere. As a leader, it is important to set standards for yourself and others. Treat your employees with respect and dignity, and most likely, they will treat each other in the same manner. Appearances also matter, following a dress code or adapting a sensible attire sets a good standard.

Other ways to encourage good professional standing and mutually beneficial relations amongst employees include:

– Be dependable and trustworthy.

– Do not be oversensitive. Not all criticisms should be considered harassment.

– Offer support from higher management to your employees when they are under pressure.

As a manager or boss, you have the power to end workplace harassment if you take the initiative to stop the maltreatment. Everyone knows that life is too short to stay in a job that causes you misery. Try these tips, set an example to your employees, and maintain a happy work environment!

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