Managers spend more than 6 hours per week handling staff conflicts: Survey

Know when to step in, reward positive role models to reduce problems

Canadian managers spend, on average, 16 per cent of their time — more than six hours a week or eight weeks per year — intervening in employee disputes, according to a survey by staffing service Accountemps.

Similar Accountemps surveys, from as far back as 1991, show resolving staff conflicts is an ongoing issue faced by supervisors.

Three-hundred managers across Canada were asked, "What percentage of management time is wasted resolving staff personality conflicts?" and the average response was 16 per cent.

"Although staff management is part of the job for supervisors, too much time spent handling disputes gets in the way of business priorities and often signals a larger issue needs to be addressed," said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps. "For example, being chronically short-staffed can cause friction among employees, as can an overly competitive work environment."

While workplace conflicts can never be fully eliminated, there are some steps managers can take to minimize personality conflicts, said Messmer.

Know when to step in: You don't want to interject every time a minor issue arises, but you can't afford to turn a blind eye to problems that jeopardize the group's output. Before morale and productivity are impacted significantly, work with those involved to identify the reason for the conflict, clear the air and determine ways to address future disagreements.

Don't let one bad apple spoil the bunch: When friction is clearly stemming from the actions of a single individual, remind that person that the ability to collaborate and treat coworkers with respect is a requirement of the job.

Help employees get to know each other: Provide opportunities for staff to interact in non-work activities, such as lunches or volunteer activities; familiarity can breed greater understanding.

Reward positive role models: Dole out praise, promotions and choice assignments to individuals who contribute to a supportive work environment. Recognizing staff for being team players sends a clear message that how they interact with others is as important as their job performance.

Make good hiring choices from the start: Hiring individuals with excellent interpersonal skills who are a good fit with your organization’s culture will reduce the potential for future conflicts.

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