Tahlequah Daily Press

April 5, 2013

Workplace conflict resolution imperative

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — One of the most valuable work skills a person can possess is the ability to get along with colleagues.

Employees in that environment should establish and maintain a sense of balance and harmony so they can meet goals and deadlines without disruption.

April is Workplace Conflict Awareness Month, and the relationships people share on the job are a key component of achieving success, no matter the type of business or organization.

Getting the job done effectively and efficiently is a universal bottom line. Sources of conflict include poor communication, different values, differing interests, scarce resources, personality clashes and poor job performance.

Common employee gripes include personality clashes or details linked to communication that impact job performance, said Northeastern State University Human Resources Director Martha Albin.

“The heart of it is to find out what’s really happening. One of the first things I ask supervisors when they bring an issue to me is, ‘Have you talked to the employee?’ or ‘Have you had the employees talk to each other?’” she said. “About half the time, the answer is yes. It is difficult when people are disagreeing. Sometimes to get them to just talk [can help improve the situation]. We want to maintain stability.”

People often spend more waking time with their peers at work than family and friends, and what’s going on at home with kids, finances or spousal relationships can lead to distractions on the job.

Though employees are adults and are expected to be mature and behave professionally, human behavior in an office setting can often evolve in the opposite direction and create an atmosphere much like a school classroom.

Albin has employees submit their complaints, or conflicts, in writing because it helps bring out details that lead to identifying the real issue at hand. Sometimes when the employee sees it in writing, he or she begins to take a new perspective and decide a conflict may not really exist.

“You can sometimes look at it and say, ‘Well, that’s certainly nothing,’ or ‘I can see why this is happening.’ When I interview people, the complaint that they come in with is not the one that’s really at the heart of what’s going on,” she said. “I think the key – and we really try to do this – is to get people to talk. It’s impossible to think everybody’s going to like everybody else. We don’t pay you to like each other. We pay you to get along.”

As it should apply in every setting, the “Golden Rule” that Tahlequah City Hospital employees are expected to honor is to treat others as they would want to be treated, said TCH Human Resources Director Tina Griffith.

“We have set policies and procedures for employee guidance. These policies and procedures also assist us, the employer, in structuring a safe and secure work environment,” she said. “For example, our behavior policy states: Mutual goodwill is of great importance in hospital relationships. We expect that our employees will maintain a helpful, cheerful and courteous attitude in all situations with physicians, patients, visitors and co-workers and all others with whom our employees come into contact.”

Having established guidelines, rules or policies is important to provide environment restrictions and attitude direction for both the employee and the employer. And setting the right tone, or positive environment, helps everyone being governed by these rules and guidelines to function with a shared sense of equity and genuine appreciation, experts say.

Feedback in the form of job performance critique is expected to foster effective productivity, but acknowledging employee effort and accomplishment provides needed balance, said Ziese Products Purchasing and Inventory Control Supervisor Jason Santana, who also oversees human resource duties for the Cookson precision CNC machine shop.

“Communication between management and employees is our best tool in promoting a positive work environment. Employees are routinely updated on the status of the company, good or bad, which helps employees understand some reasoning behind management decisions,” he said.

“Weekly meetings at the beginning of the workday are used to point out employees who have been performing exceptionally. Also, the owner of the company will periodically take everyone to lunch, which allows employees to become more familiar with each other outside of the normal working environment.”

Santana said employees are encouraged to approach management with any issue they may have in their daily working conditions.

“Each issue is heard, and we do our best to make things as easy or comfortable for every employee,” he said. “Like all employers, we do encounter issues between employees where personalities clash. In those instances, we try and get both sides of the story. We will sit down with all involved and iron out the issue between them, and let them know that continued behavior issues will not be tolerated.”

Providing training or presentations on the expected work behavior is also vital to ensuring everyone’s on the same page.

The Cherokee Nation provides employee development through trainings like supervisor/manager basic training, frontline leadership, reasonable suspicion, workplace violence prevention, working together, interpersonal skills and time management to name a few, according to CN Human Resources Group Leader Bill Foster.


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