By Judy Coffey
The ‘workplace’ isn’t always ‘at’ work anymore. Some employees have become comfortable with the new normal of working from home, while many companies are requesting that their employees come back to the office. These changes create a new kind of workplace conflict for employers that require new strategies for conflict resolution that will allow for a cohesive team that can successfully meet organizational goals.
Back to The Office
Employers want us back. Companies are returning to full force and requesting that employees come back to the office.
For some employees it’s “Yay!” but for others it’s “Nay” and that’s creating a new type of workplace conflict for their employers.
Employees have become comfortable with the new normal of working from home: no commute, virtual meetings and, for many, a better work focus. Other employees want to come back. They feel more fulfilled, desire the camaraderie of co-workers, and can’t wait to leave behind the chaos of working alongside children and spouses, or being interrupted by everything from Amazon deliveries to the incessant barking of neighborhood dogs (often barking at the Amazon delivery people).
Some employees are hoping for a hybrid solution, to work a few days from home and a few days in the office.
When teams or departments have a mix of those Yays and Nays, conflicts will arise and organizations will need new-ish tools to resolve a new kind of workplace conflict.
I’ve been working with a small company of 20 employees. During pandemic year one, everyone worked from home. Pandemic year two, the CEO, COO, CFO, and HR leaders returned to the workplace but all financial employees continued to work from home.
That year two arrangement soon frustrated the CFO and its team. The CFO’s weekly reports to the CEO could only stay on schedule with continuous Zoom meetings and phone calls, often well into the evening, to ensure accounting/budget sheet accuracy. Working from home was not ideal, yet the CEO felt the financial team should remain in their home offices. Team conflict grew, some feeling that others were not working hard enough to meet the financial deadlines, others becoming agitated, feeling work life balance was not being considered.
Weeks of poor performance required the CFO find a way to mange the conflict.
Conflict is not unfamiliar to people. We experience it to some degree everyday with family, friends, or neighbors, but when it occurs in the workplace or with other professionals/co-workers, it can cause high levels of frustration, discomfort, and anger.
Steps to Implementing ART
ART, Appropriate Resolution Tools, can keep differences and frustration from rising to major issues:
- Define the conflict’s cause, or causes, and discuss employees’ unmet needs or conflict catalysts.
- Find a time and safe place to talk with each individual and ensure that their views on the situation are heard.
- Provide a supportive forum for identifying the cause of conflicts. Listen actively. Be positive yet assertive, bring everyone together, set ground rules and encourage everyone to articulate thoughts in an open, honest, and calm manner. Allow everyone to have their say, give them the opportunity to express their views and perceptions.
- After listening to concerns of both parties, investigate the situation, find out more about the issues and the underlying conflict. Do not prejudge.
- Manage the conflict resolution process: find common objectives and set the stage for meeting a common goal. You have clarified the conflict, talked to the individuals, listened to the issues, and investigated the situation. It is now time to find a common goal by listening, communicating, and brainstorming resolution options.
- Focus on the future. Collectively develop a plan to work on the conflict, and plan follow-up meetings.
- Put the conflict resolution plan in place, work through the conflicted areas and build on your success.
- Find opportunities to acknowledge progress and achievements. Persistent hard work on common issues will, hopefully, pay off and give way to more dialogue, increase collective support and collective communications.
The CFO realized there were various conflicts and embraced steps to keep issues manageable. With a better understanding of how to address conflict, the team’s home-based members and their in-office counterparts now use ART to successfully meet goals.
The ‘workplace’ isn’t always ‘at’ work anymore. With that change comes a new kind of conflict, and it requires some additions or tweaks to traditional workplace conflict strategies. If or when it occurs in your organization, look to ART to soothe those workplace woes.
Are You Ready to Leap?
Leap Solutions is a diverse group of highly skilled management professionals serving our clients with their organizational development, human resources, and executive search and recruitment needs. We have spent decades doing what we feel passionate about helping you feel passionate about what you do. With the ever-changing COVID-19 response, our HR specialists can help you get a handle on the guidelines, programs, and legislation that may impact you and your employees. Through all of our services, we are available to work with you to develop practical solutions and smart planning decisions for your organization’s immediate, near, and long-term needs.
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For the foreseeable post-COVID world, organizations will be managing a hybrid workforce. You want your employees to be engaged and stay with you. At Leap Solutions, we believe it is important to have clear policies and guidelines to keep your hybrid workforce engaged and productive. We provide you with the tools you need to create the strategies you can use to support the hybrid workforce. We are dedicated to keeping you informed and empowered with relevant, up-to-the-minute information and resources, working with you to develop practical solutions and smart planning decisions for your organization.
In this issue of our newsletter:
- Understanding the Hybrid Workforce
- Post-COVID Strategies to Consider for your workplace
The Hybrid Workforce
For the foreseeable future, organizations will be managing a hybrid workforce. It’s possible that what’s taken place in 2020 could usher in more non-desk (work-from-home) work than anyone anticipated. But, if we want employees to be engaged and stay with us, we need to have clear guidelines about the work and how it will get done. In 2020, organizations made many decisions with very little information… and that’s okay, that’s what it took to keep things working. We have more information now, and it’s time to create better employee strategies.
Estimates put the number of people working from home to be double pre-COVID numbers. That will necessitate new patterns that successfully integrate larger numbers of work-from-home employees with office employees.
In addition to a hybrid workforce focus, there are critical and simple strategies organizations can use to ensure successful employee engagement.
Post- COVID Strategies to Consider
Discover current best practice workplaces
Research or, better yet, have an employee or a group of employees research best practice workplaces for more information and knowledge.
Identify hybrid virtual workplace approaches
How is your organization preparing for the post-COVID work environment? Are you ready for a majority hybrid-remote office model?
Policies for Hybrid workforce
Create policies, within or separately from your handbook, that outline the rules and regulations for working from home. The employee and the employer need to be on the same page to avoid confusion and pre-empt potential misunderstandings.
It’s time to consider non-desk work when creating jobs. Job descriptions should include whether a position can be a work-from-home job, information that could be helpful to individuals when they’re reading the job posting or applying. In this post-COVID era, perhaps it’s time to design the job position with remote work in mind, instead of designing the job position then asking if it can be a non-desk role.
The way we manage a hybrid workforce has an impact on customers and the business. Remote employees need the tools and technology to take care of customers, be trained to handle customer issues, and know what to do if they need a manager’s guidance.
Refocus on Mission, not COVID
In some cases, COVID has caused leaders to centralize decision-making. For speed and efficiency’s sake, decisions were pulled into the leadership team without feedback from key stakeholders. While necessary for the short-term, this will need to change for long-term effectiveness and employee engagement. Moving forward, leaders will need to delegate participation in decision-making outside the leadership team and closer to the front line.
Communication of the organization’s strategy improved during COVID. Organizations did a good job communicating internal COVID strategies so the wheels wouldn’t come off the wagon. Research found that employee perceptions that an organization was meeting its goals actually improved during the pandemic, and a ‘perception,’ disagreed with by some, that remote employees worked more effectively.
Increase communication efforts to keep employees informed during remote work.
Employee Engagement and Culture
As the COVID vaccine takes hold and workplaces ramp back up, employers will need to reconnect with employees at a new, different level. With the increased stress of being cooped up, less work-life balance, and kids at home, consider the issues affecting your employees now and how you plan now to address those issues.
Refocus on your Values
With people coming back to a physically close workspace, and the relationship challenges that come with that — which couldn’t happen on Zoom — it will be time to refocus on organizational values.
Re-engage your top talent
Post-COVID, disengaged employees will take advantage of options and choices. While Society of Human Resource Management says employees are spooked by continuing high unemployment and staying put in their jobs in ways not seen in nearly a decade, will “the return to normal” tempt your best people to leave?
Get those 1 on 1’s back in action
Organizational cultures are moving from “performance management conversations” to “development conversations.” Frontline managers continue to be the key link between employees and organizations. A 30- to 60-minute weekly or bi-weekly meeting can be a treasure of mutual listening, understanding, affirmation, challenge, and action for individuals and teams.
Training managers to communicate
How comfortable do individuals feel discussing issues and concerns with managers where you work? There can always be further work in this area so don’t overlook it.
At Leap Solutions we have assisted companies with these strategies and more to help them prepare for re-entry, full re-entry, or hybrid solutions. In some cases these strategies were new, in other cases it was a simple reminder, tweak, and new policy implementation to ensure all parties were on the same page.
Leap Solutions is a diverse group of highly skilled management, organizational development, and human resources, and executive search and recruitment professionals who have spent decades doing what we feel passionate about helping you feel passionate about what you do. Our HR specialists can help you get a handle on the ever-changing COVID-19 guidelines, programs, and legislation that may impact you and your employees. We are available to work with you to develop practical solutions and smart planning decisions for your organization’s immediate, near, and long-term needs.
To print this article, click here