Iconic businessman Lee Iacocca once said, "Management is nothing more than motivating other people." This is true, but as a manager, you've likely found that motivating people not to bicker, get into power struggles and give each other the cold shoulder is easier said than done. Fortunately, a few tried and true methods can reduce conflict in your workplace.
Set firm boundaries so employees know what constitutes acceptable workplace behavior. Clarify what type of behavior is expected by having a clearly defined chain of command and well-thought out job descriptions, advises leadership adviser Mike Myatt in a Forbes.com blog. Leadership development and team building can also contribute to an atmosphere in which employees are encouraged to develop and focus on their positive attributes.
Nip It in the Bud
If you sense that conflict is brewing, take steps to prevent a minor skirmish from becoming all-out war. For example, if you notice one employee continuously directing sarcastic remarks at another, sit down with the employee with the biting wit and ask her to tone it down, directing her to the appropriate page of your employee handbook, if necessary. If you don't act now, the conflict will almost certainly escalate.
Myatt also advises trying to understand the perspective of each employee. Whenever a conflict arises, if you try to intuit what benefit each person stands to gain, you'll often be better able to resolve the problem. For example, if two employees are having problems because one person took credit for the other person's idea, make a mental note to give the idea-stealer more of the positive affirmation she needs, while making certain the originator receives due credit.
Model the behavior you wish to see. As a manager, you have more control over the level of conflict in your workplace than you might think. Leaders who conduct their interactions with integrity, maintain confidentiality, avoid office gossip and treat each employee equally are more effective at preventing and dealing with conflict than those who themselves engage in conflict. Conduct yourself in a professional manner, and you'll be on solid ground when you have to mediate a disagreement.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.