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Resolving workplace relationship issues

Creative tension has a very positive role to play in the work environment. The best solutions tend to emerge when different views and perspectives are allowed. However, when relationships between individuals become strained or argumentative it can undermine team morale and affect productivity.

Here are some pointers as to how to address such a situation:

1. Deal with issue as a priorityRelationship conflicts which go unresolved may go from bad to worse. There will be a temptation to do nothing in the hope that the situation will somehow resolve itself or ‘blow over’.

2. Deal with issue locally. It is best for the issues to be resolved between the individuals concerned, with minimal external involvement – a facilitator of a discussion to ‘clear the air’ may be desirable if agreed by both parties.  Escalation to senior levels of management or recourse to formal bullying and harassment procedures, should be a last resort. Apart from being stressful and time consuming there are rarely any winners from going the formal complaint route, and failure of the parties to resolve issues between them, tend to reflect badly on all involved.

Setting ground rules for a  ‘clear the air ‘ session is desirable – suggest the following:

– agree that session should be confidential, and have a ‘safe space’ for discussion
– possible independent ‘mediator’ to run the session
– stick to the facts;  no interpretation of the other party’s motives
– no blaming, assumption being that there has been a genuine misunderstanding
– each party should be given time to speak uninterrupted to explain their point of view
– each should listen carefully to the other’s perspective
– focus should be on expressing feelings (remember – neither right or wrong !)
– set out standards of behavior expected in the workplace e.g respectful communications

It is often the case that relationship issues arise between the most committed members of the team, who possibly have different work styles, personality types or backgrounds. So respect for diversity and tolerance are key ingredients in resolving relationship issues.

It should rarely be the case that people simply can’t work with each other because of ‘personality differences’ etc. Colleagues do not need to be personal friends but they are required to have a mutually respectful working relationship in the interests of achieving common work goals.


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