Conflict doesn't just appear out of nowhere. There are always signs warning that a conflict is developing. Managers who know what these signs are can be more effective leaders by confronting the problem before it rages out of hand. By understanding conflict in the early stages, your organization will run much more smoothly and overall productivity levels will be increased considerably. What are these subtle signs of conflict to look for?
Signs a Storm is Brewing
Here are nine signs that indicate there is a problem brewing. These are not the only signs, but are the most common. Keep in mind that anything that prohibits maximum productivity and positive interaction among employees and management are signs that something is amiss and needs to be addressed before it gets out of hand.
Dysfunctional meetings. Do staff meetings end up being gripe sessions instead of brainstorming sessions? Are there some people who always seem to dominate the conversation while others appear annoyed or distracted?
Anger. Any anger, but especially that which is an over-reaction, needs to be addressed immediately. Anger is rarely the response for a first-time upset.
Productivity slowdowns. When people are not happy with the work environment, they tend to focus less on their work. Ask yourself if there has been a decline in the company's productivity and try to pinpoint when it started.
High turn-over. If employees aren't sticking around, there is a good reason. Nobody enjoys looking for a job, so the fact that people are leaving indicates an internal problem.
Inappropriate communications. This can be in the form of emails that are rude or use inappropriate language. Rudeness in speech or a disregard for another's opinion is an indicator that something is going to blow up soon.
Anxiety. Are there certain individuals who seem anxious or on edge most of the time? Maybe they avoid social interactions, are always doubting their work or asking more than the normal amount of questions. Anxiety is often an indicator that there may be an issue festering on an interpersonal level.
Clique forming. Employees should be working as a team. If there seems to be a division into cliques or the same employees always seem to team up on projects, then the company isn't functioning as one body and is not being as productive as possible.
Repetitive disagreements. Does it seem that the same employees always disagree? Is the conflict often over petty matters? There is a communication issue that needs to be confronted immediately.
Loss of trust. Trust is essential in any work environment, whether between employees or between employees and management. If there seems to be distrust within the company, it needs to be addressed.
What Can I Do?
If you happen to notice these or other indicators that trouble is brewing among your employees, do not assume that the issue will resolve itself - the situation needs to be addressed as early as possible by your team leader, HR staff, or yourself. In many cases, a professional conflict advisor can help everyone get to the core cause of the conflict and help resolve any issues. If you’re wondering what your next move will be, consult a professional conflict advisor. By being proactive about these early warning signs, you give your company a chance to continue growing and running efficiently - and manage conflicts that could blow up and end up causing loss of employees, productivity and money.
At Resologics, over the course of our years of experience working with client situations of unmanaged conflict, we have found that a key factor that arises again and again is #9: loss of trust. Another way to put it is that those teams with a high level of trust are, as research, shows the highest-performing teams. This is a crucial piece of any team-building or organization-building endeavor, so I encourage you to read more about it here.