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Creating Ways to Voice Concern about Coworker Conflict

Implement multiple avenues for employees to offer their perspectives on workplace conflict. Productively communicating concerns gives your staff a constructive way to ask questions or vent. And by communicating that an employee’s ideas and concerns are important to you, you increase the likelihood that he’ll use one of the methods you establish rather than keep the rumors going.

Use as many communication systems as possible because the more avenues you make available the more likely employees are to find one or two they’re comfortable using. The goal is to help staff bring ideas and concerns forward and help you gain a better understanding of the causes and impact.

Some avenues for employee feedback include the following:

  • Set up an anonymous e-mail address or toll-free phone number. Your company can administer these resources directly, or an independent agency can compile the data for you. Be sure to post the e-mail address or telephone number where employees can access it easily.

  • Provide locked suggestion boxes and encourage people to use them. Place the boxes in an area that’s easily accessible to all employees. You don’t want people to feel like they have to sneak past the principal’s office to drop in a suggestion.

  • Conduct regular anonymous surveys to give your employees a chance to share concerns and ideas. If employees know that only a compiled list of answers is being sent to the administrator and that there’s no way for the company to know who reported what, they’re more apt to answer honestly.

  • Develop an ombudsman office. An ombudsman is an employee, or group of employees, who are trained in various conflict resolution techniques and are available as a confidential resource for resolving disputes at the lowest level possible.

After you have a system in place, notify employees what the various options are and how to use them. The memo should set the expectation that you (or the company) won’t act on every request, but that you’re interested in looking at patterns or learning something new. Asking employees to help brainstorm a new or different way to address recurring issues is a great way to broaden the ideas for a long-term resolution.

Whatever you do, if it’s within your power, don’t ask for opinions and then do nothing about them. Asking and then ignoring leads to employees who are no longer willing to tell you the truth. Your staff would much rather have you acknowledge the complaint and explain your reasons for not changing it than see you sweep the concern under the rug but keep asking whether there’s anything you can do to make their working environment better.

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