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Long Term Care & Senior Living Blog

The Dos and Don’ts of Dealing With Coworker Conflict

Mike Pumphrey

dealing-with-coworker-conflict.jpgSenior living and long-term care leaders have plenty of tasks and stressors on their plates on any given day. Between unexpected scheduling issues, resident satisfaction and other unexpected events, having employees that work well together can really alleviate some of the pressures on management. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, and there are inevitable instances in which workers don’t agree, encounter personality or behavioral differences or simply just don’t like each other. 

In those situations, managers and supervisors must take action to deal with workplace conflict. Easier said than done, right? That’s why it’s important to approach the situation with care. 

Some estimate that the industry employee turnover rate sits at a whopping 50%. So, why would providers want to risk losing an employee due to a misunderstanding or issue that can be resolved? Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind when handling friction between employees.

Don’t ignore the situation. Pretending that issues among employees don’t exist will often just escalate problems further. It’s important that leaders encourage workers to sort out their differences on their own, but any employee-to-employee issues that arise should be closely monitored by someone in a management position to ensure the situation is handled properly. 

Sometimes hostile situations between employees go unnoticed, often times because an employee is either uncomfortable approaching management, or worried that they will look like they are “telling on” someone. Managers can avoid these types of situations by frequently surveying their staff. Regular pulse surveys can provide an opportunity for an employee to call attention to any conflict or dissatisfaction so management can address it sooner rather than later.

Do conduct individual meetings. When you learn of a conflict between employees, the next step is to conduct separate meetings with those involved. This will allow you to get both sides of the story so you can better determine the root cause of the conflict. Be sure to remain objective and give each person a chance to explain how they think the issue can be resolved.

Don’t take second-hand accounts as ultimate truths. Taking immediate action based solely on the reports of other staffers is ill advised. Vague and non-specific accounts alone may not warrant a sit-down with the employees in question. However, if rumors are flying, then chances are your company’s productivity is taking a hit, meaning you may want to pay closer attention.

Do let staff know about your expectations, and that you’ve noticed a shift in work quality. If you believe significant workplace conflict exists within your community or company overall, then remind staff about your expectations around behavior, collaboration, positive interaction and communication. This provides workers a clear view as to what you expect and allows management a standard for which to hold employees accountable. In situations where productivity is already visibly affected, make everyone aware that you’ve noticed issues and outline a plan for how you intend to address them.

Don’t try handle the situation entirely on your own. Consider any company policies in place that detail specific guidelines for handling conflict in the workplace. Rather than acting instinctively and individually, consult with next-level leaders or human resources to pinpoint the best course of action.

Do assess the nature of the conflict before taking action. Different types of tension require different responses, so it’s crucial to adequately evaluate the conflict at hand. In order to do so, clarify the reason for and history of the tension, and clearly outline next steps for the employees involved. This may be a follow-up meeting to ensure there has been progress, or you might even suggest an Employee Assistance Program as a free and confidential resource to help staff members deal with a given situation. The latter may be especially necessary if the situation is more complex, and if so, may require the involvement of human resources. 

Don’t take a one-and-done approach to resolving the problem. It’s important to continue to monitor the situation in the short-term to make sure further issues don’t arise. Management should set up brief check-ins with each employee to ensure things are running smoothly and that they’re satisfied at work and providing quality care. 

Do allow employees to switch shifts and/or buildings if the problem persists. Sometimes two people just don’t work well together. Rather than force them to get along and create an uncomfortable situation, offer an opportunity to alter their schedules. Showing you care about each employees’ satisfaction at work will make them feel valued and contribute to their engagement. Sometimes, a little staff schedule control goes a long way and leads to employee satisfaction.

It’s impossible to force people to like each other, but getting along with coworkers and maintaining a professional work environment are critical to ensuring high quality resident care and successful business operations in the senior living and long-term care industry. Addressing workplace conflict with deliberation and care can mean the difference between a high-tension, inefficient atmosphere and a cohesive, engaged staff that positively contributes to your organizational goals.

Easily keep tabs on staff satisfaction to combat turnover with OnShift Engage. Schedule a demo today.

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Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey is the Director of Marketing with OnShift.

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