Tension created by a seemingly small issue can blow up into a huge problem if left unchecked, wasting the time and energy of everyone involved while significantly reducing productivity. Small tensions exist in every workplace, and while they cannot be completely eliminated, they can be managed, ensuring that negative outcomes are limited and positive outcomes are more likely.
As a leader, your job is to recognize, address and resolve workplace tensions that might threaten the productivity of your team. Poor leaders often avoid conflict, hoping that if they put their head in the sand it might go away. Over time though, this unresolved conflict will grow and cause bigger problems down the road.
Managing Tension in the Workplace: Tips and Strategies
Tension can be caused by a variety of factors including poor communication, conflicting personalities, personal stress and stresses created by tight deadlines. Whatever the source, there are a few key strategies that can be used to manage this tension.
- Decide and agree on acceptable behavior – If the whole team has agreed to a code of conduct it becomes a lot easier to call people out should their behavior not meet expectations.
- Deal with tension quickly – Left alone, tension in the workplace rarely dissipates. In fact, it is more likely to build. As it does there is an increased risk that a serious issue might develop. Deal with workplace tension quickly.
- Communicate effectively – Sensitive topics such as layoffs and promotions should not be left alone. Discuss them as a team and make sure everyone has the same information. Uncertainty and poor communication frequently lead to tension.
- Listen to both parties – If there is a disagreement between team members, listen separately to what each side has to say and make sure you understand their point of views before bringing them together.
- Encourage compromise – When mediating disagreements, start with common ground and build towards a compromise both parties can agree upon.
- Leverage tension – Tension isn’t always bad, and it can be used to encourage and develop the team to learn more about themselves and how they can work together more effectively. Use tension in the workplace as an opportunity to build your leadership skills and help your team perform better.