It’s never easy to work comfortably in an office where the air is filled with tension day in and day out. A situation like this leads to low productivity and economic loss, which affects not only the employer, but the employees as well. When tension in the office is rife, it leads to absenteeism and indirectly increases the costs paid by the company for workers’ compensation and health insurance. It is the employer’s role to ease tension at work by understanding what causes the condition and developing some outlets so that stress is relieved.
Not all tension is bad, however. It can also be neutral, or even positive. Even if two people disagree, it could be caused by a difference of opinion, nothing more. However, when tension is left unresolved and allowed to develop, the previously neutral tension cam become something negative and harmful. When tension escalates to this level, almost everyone in the office suffers.
Here are some ideas on how to ease tension in the work place:
Tension in the work place is more likely to increase in organizations without clear rules and policies. There are people who believe that conditions in the work place trigger stress, while others argue that tension usually originates from an individual who is unable to cope with stressful situations. People who study stress in the work place agree that if formal regulations and written rules are firmly in place, clear standards are provided for employees to follow. These regulations can help defuse stress and tension inside the office. Consistent and fair enforcement of written rules helps ease tension, even among employees who are less capable of handling stressful and tension-filled situations.
Normally, tension and conflict arise from misunderstandings, rumors and misconceptions about new operations or programs. In order to diffuse this issue, keep all employees informed about new projects or company directions through regular meetings. Staff reductions, layoffs, or introduction of productivity tools creates fear in your office staff. If you have regular meetings, your team will be up to date on the economic status of your company, and give staff members time to plan, should there be employee reductions, merging, or closing of other branches or departments.
Allow an open forum to be held during meetings so that employees can present their concerns, ask questions and clarify company policies. See to it that company officials are involved in these meetings to show their involvement in the employees’ wellbeing.
Your company should have a formal process to handle complaints regarding issues in the work place, as this minimizes tension. When the process is formal and a resolution is expected within a specific time line, employees are not bound to think of partiality and favoritism. Work directly with a professional organization or union in your company if it exists, in defusing common problems. Tackle issues that employees deem important, even if you think that the complaints are low in importance according to your perception.
Tension in the work place often escalates because of lack of open means of communication. When this happens, the uncertainty that employees feel increases, as they are unable to deal with changes or reorganization. Written processes and face-to-face meetings are good communication channels to establish, so that tension between managements and workers is reduced.
You can also provide instructions in stress-reducing activities, self-help training in anger management and low-cost or free seminars to help develop interpersonal relationships in the work place. Another method is to offer tips for establishing workweek planning and sensible work habits.
It’s better to address conflicts in the work place quickly. Discuss the issue with the involved parties and emphasize to them the need to address the tension immediately. As the head of the department or a senior officer of the company, your job is to be the mediator. Talk to each party separately so you can gain a clear view of the conflict. Discuss what specific events or facts led to the tension, together with other emotional information. Keep in mind that there are three sides to a conflict, the side of each party -and the truth.
Once you have gathered all the facts, get the two or all parties involved and permit them to share their own version of what happened. It is a way of bringing to light other facts or issues that the other party might not know of.
It’s important that you find a common ground to forge a more solid relationship among the people involved. Find a creative compromise that includes the needs and limits of all parties concerned. The compromise should benefit each party equally to enable them to accept the condition and at the same time encourage them to work together. This may not happen overnight since the tension normally includes emotional involvement.
Tension in the work place is inevitable. However, there are things that a business manager or owner can do to minimize or curtail the chance of tension and conflict from occurring. If you can create an environment where the employees feel that they are a part of the company’s bigger plans and they believe in the company and its owner’s vision, they will feel happier.
Management can also institute an open-door policy or have a suggestion box where employees can air their grievances anonymously. There is no other way to resolve work place tension than to face it. It may be uncomfortable but it is better than allowing the tension to fester, as it will become very dangerous to the business as a whole.