HR Services to Avoid Workplace Conflict During Reintegration

HR Services

With COVID-19 vaccination rates increasing across the nation, many companies are faced with the prospect of, yet again, changing the structure of their workplace. In many industries, bringing workers back to the office or workplace is ideal, while in other settings, a hybrid solution may be better. But in most instances, workers will begin going back to the workplace either part- or full-time soon, if they haven’t already.

But the return to work might not go as smoothly as many employers would like. After over a year of remote working, employees have found new routines. This effect may make it more challenging to fall back into pre-pandemic working patterns. Additionally, health and safety concerns remain high for many individuals, while others feel like the threat is low. This difference in prioritizing safety precautions could lead to additional workplace conflict.

No matter the source of the conflict, it is likely that reintegration will not come without obstacles. Given this, it’s a great idea for employers to review strategies and policies to manage and resolve conflict in the workplace. Workplace conflict can stem from many sources, such as:

  • Unfair work performance by some and the feeling that some may be working harder than others – especially those who continue to work from home instead of being required to return to an office setting.
  • Work style differences, which may be especially challenging during reintegration as many people have had more leeway with working in a way that meets their preferences in a remote setting.
  • Differences of opinion related to COVID precautions, such as when a mask is appropriate, what distance is safe for social distancing, and what interactions could or should be minimized or avoided.
  • Personality and political conflicts that undermine trust and respect across team members.
  • Leadership differences or changing management styles in a workplace setting opposed to a remote setting.

And these are just a few of the common sources of workplace conflict. The reality is that conflict between two or more employees or between leadership and an employee or group of employees can stem from many sources. And it is especially common during any period of transition, including the proposed reintegration that many organizations are facing.

Conflict is a normal part of human interactions in any setting, but at work, it must be handled appropriately or minimized so that the organization can remain healthy, function, and productive. There are several strategies to minimize the amount of conflict that is likely to arise during reintegration, such as:

  • Communicate Clearly: Leaders must communicate clearly the expectations for employees. Disputes often arise because different employees interpret messages in different ways. When there is less ambiguity in the messaging from leadership, there is much less risk that conflict will arise due to different interpretations. It is crucial to communicate very clearly to everyone about the expectations during reintegration, then repeat the message multiple times to remove any ambiguity or uncertainty.
  • Develop Policies with Respect: Since health and safety concerns will remain a high priority for many individuals returning to the workplace, it’s essential that employers address this matter. Identify what is being done to protect workers and minimize risk. Develop policies that all employees will be expected to follow and communicate these policies clearly. Hold special training to address this openly and be available to answer questions. If any staff members have additional concerns that your policies have not addressed, it’s a good idea to work with them individually to come up with a plan that allows them to work productively without worrying about their safety.
  • Foster Engagement: For many employees, it’s been over a year since they have been in the same room as their colleagues. It may take some time for the workplace relationships to solidify again. Holding activities, events, and other things that help foster these relationships is a great way to strengthen your team and remind them of the valuable contributions that each member makes to the organization.
  • Be Fair: When it comes to reintegration, there may be conflict related to different arrangements. For instance, if some of your staff request a hybrid working schedule while others are denied, it can cause resentment and lead to conflict. It’s crucial to treat everyone fairly. If some of your employees are able to have a hybrid schedule while others cannot due to their job duties, everyone must know why this difference exists. Some accommodations may be due to medical needs or issues while some positions are better suited for telecommuting. Regardless, all decisions must be vetted through the typical HR lens to minimize risk of discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

These strategies can certainly aid in reducing the chance that workplace conflict. But if you do encounter conflict during reintegration, it is important to remember that it is a normal part of an office environment. Do not ignore it, but rather confront it with the help of a workplace HR services specialist. It is important to discuss these issues with a professional and then implement appropriate solutions for the team member(s) with a grievance. Developing appropriate solutions and strategies that best suited for all parties is a plus. This tactic can make the entire process less stressful, maintain strong morale and culture, while remaining legally compliant.

CA HR Services specializes in working with small and medium-sized companies to help develop legal, efficient, and appropriate HR processes and procedures that meet local, state, and federal labor law requirements.

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