Workplace Conflict: Three tips on How to Report it to Management
Here is some guidance on how to approach management when you are ready to do so and if it makes sense to do so. I do not advise my clients to make a formal or even informal complaint without understanding the possible consequences. Things often backfire. Be that as it may, some people can and should seek help. If you are in that category, here is some good advice for you.
Workplace Conflict: Avoid Labels and Judgments
Try to be “neutral” when you talk to management. Most people are so upset about the conflict that they come in with feelings and labels instead of facts and observations. This strategy does not help you.
Instead, you need to give management an opportunity to see you as reasonable and rational, rather than emotional and needy. You can do this by discussing the facts of what happened and how it costs your organization. Remain calm and conversational.
For example, start with a comment such as: “I thought you’d want to know that (insert behavior) is happening in the department.”
Conversation not Complaint
Notice I am proposing you approach management with a conversation not a complaint. You are simply informing management of something they might want to know. This conversation is not about you, it’s about the organization and their bottom line. As awful as you may feel, describing your hurt feelings and judgments about the conflict will only hurt your case.
Focus on the Business Costs
Once you have positioned yourself as an asset to the company, focus on the costs of the conflict. Discuss that research on workplace conflict is clear that productivity declines, morale suffers, and leaders leave (for more info visit Costs of Conflict).
Give management a chance to think about what to do next: “I’m not sure what can be done about it, but I felt I would be remiss in not keeping you informed.” At the same time, ask for a timeline for when they will get back to you with their thoughts.
Workplace Conflict Requires You to Be Realistic
The manager or HR representative may promise solutions and support that they cannot deliver. I am not sure why this happens but it does, and often. Do not hold out hope that all will be well just because they say so. Investigating, handling, and deciding what actions to take in a workplace conflict situation take time. You may be feeling desperate but your bosses are trying to mitigate their losses and pick the one they will support. It may not be you.
I’m Kathleen Bartle, a strategic consultant on workplace conflict to executives worldwide for more than 20 years. My work brings individualized solutions to your teams’ lost productivity, loss of key personnel, low morale, and the high costs resulting from bullying, abrasive behaviors and interpersonal workplace conflicts. You can contact me here.