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It has frequently been stated that employees are the heart of every organization. Thus, healthy employee relationships contribute mightily to the strength of an organization’s success. Conversely, if there is poor company culture, if relationship problems exist, and especially if there is conflict in the workplace, the “heart” will become weak and ineffective. The leaders of every organization must ensure that a healthy culture is established and when any employee conflict arises, deal with it swiftly and wisely.  

The Benefits of Having Good Employee Relationships 

A harmonious relationship between employees and between employees and their leaders leads to heightened loyalty to each other and to the organization. It leads to increased motivation, strengthens workplace engagement, improves trust, and it contributes to a better workplace culture. It also contributes to economic growth for the organization and enhances workplace efficiency. And it helps reduce turnover. Good relationships also mean fewer chances for employee conflict. 

What is Employee Conflict? 

Employee conflict can occur in any organization where people of different backgrounds, races, genders, workstyles, and attitudes are brought together. But conflict can and must be addressed so it doesn’t become cancerous.  

Causes of employee conflict can include personality differences, unmet needs, perceived resource inequities, unclarified organizational roles, irritating workplace behaviors, competing job duties, organizational transitions, and poor communication practices.  

When Should HR Handle Employee Conflict? 

Clearly, it should be expected that individuals work out their differences. However, there are occasions when HR should step in to mediate and resolve instances of conflict. These include when: 

  • It is important to overcome or avoid real or perceived bias. For example, when a conflict spans different departments, or the potential questions of race or gender bias may be concerned, the neutral HR department should step in. 
  • There is tension between individuals, and it is critical to lower the tension and avoid any perceived preferential treatment. 
  • Employees don’t see eye-to-eye and line managers don’t know what steps to take to resolve the differences between individuals. 
  • A neutral voice of reason can be used to calm troubled waters. Oftentimes, employees have issues with their direct supervisor so pulling him/her out of the conflict can be very helpful. 

What Can HR Do to Handle Employee Conflict? 

HR professionals are (or should be) professionally trained to keep an experienced eye on the team to prevent conflicts before they happen. They can read the tension points and deal with them before they grow to the level of serious conflicts. They can advise the rest of the leadership team and provide suggestions that will prevent and overcome conflicts and create a healthy work environment. They can help manage, mediate, and solve employee differences. They can create written policies that help prevent workplace conflicts and can guide good hiring practices that ensure a good cultural fit. And they can institute fair grievance practices.

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