Improving confrontations in the workplace is often a matter of understanding the origins or motivation for each type of confrontation, which often stem from specific circumstances.

What causes confrontations?

confrontationKnowing the target of a given confrontation can often be key to understanding how to defuse it if you are a manager, or handle it if you are an employee faced with a confrontation over work issues. What follows are typical motivations for workplace confrontations and suggestions on how to solve them.


#1: Competition for credit on work


When people work hard at their jobs and don’t get credit for their work, in recognition or compensation, they can become sensitive—even downright testy—toward anyone they perceive to be costing them potential credit.


Solution: If credit for a project is supposed to be shared, then it is imperative for all parties to have a constructive way to discuss in advance how a project should be presented and/or submitted. That’s why setting up ground rules with checkpoints is important to keeping the peace.


If a situation has already flared up, it is vital to get people to constructively air their grievances. Once these concerns are out on the table, it is possible to determine if the complaints about work credit are genuine or perceived. If the complaints are genuine then it is imperative to involve the department or division manager in resolving them. If gripes stem only from jealousy or insecurity, then it is advisable to meet with the individuals involved to review the project step by step and identify their roles more clearly, both on work completed and work to be done.


#2: Interpretation of company policies


Nothing sets off workplace confrontations quite like disagreements over what constitutes company policy. Employees often think they know what company policy is when it comes to overtime, time off, or commission, but sometimes that understanding is not complete or clear. Here are suggestions on how to handle confrontations over company policy.


Solution: If management is consistently getting feedback about a corporate or company policy via email or the classic suggestion box, address the situation with a clearly stated and corporate-approved companywide email. That way everyone gets the same message, and it’s an effective method of communicating about matters like vacation or sick days, as well as day-to-day operations.


Issues such as commission policies can be a lot trickier and usually require direct and individualized communication about actual company policy, especially if confrontations have occurred over clients or customers, sales territories or even who is supposed to sign off on a project.


HR departments are usually called in when disputes over company policy build to a level of direct confrontation between employees, or between an employee and their manager. It is important in those circumstances to set up an environment that allows sufficient room to hear both sides and document all matters discussed in the meetings. Consider that every confrontation is also an opportunity for key learnings about the overall culture and policies of your company. Present that fact as a basis for discussion and participants are more likely to contribute to solutions in a positive fashion.



#3: Interdepartmental relationships


It is difficult enough when confrontations occur between individuals within a department. But when confrontations between entire departments ensue, the solution requires some homework and some footwork to ease the confrontation and keep company workflow going.


Solution: Positive interdepartmental relationships are the product of understanding mutual goals. So for example, if the sales department has a goal to reach and it is perceived that the customer service department is failing to get back to clients in timely ways to maintain relationships, tempers can flare. Managers can get at each other’s throats over such issues.


It is important in any interdepartmental confrontation to focus on the business issues driving each department. Often the goals of each department are legitimate and the balance of company success depends on each to complete its stated goals. But if there are ways to improve company relations both internally and externally, then confrontations over methods can actually lead to constructive solutions and better policies overall.


The common thread in improving confrontations in the workplace is to view them as opportunities for communication. That way all parties can engage on a positive level and come out of confrontations with solutions rather than more problems.


About the Guest Post Author:
Erica L. Fener, Ph.D., is Vice President, Business Development Strategy and Analysis at Progressus Therapy, a leading provider of therapy employment, including school-based therapy and early intervention services

The infographic by suggests that you are to blame for your coworkers behavior. What would you say to that?