8 Top Tips To Manage Workplace Adversaries


Gather a group of people in the same place day after day is always going to have the same results; some people will get on with each other, while others will be at one another’s throats.

It’s impossible to make sure that your team members are going to like each other when they first start working for you, though not dealing with internal conflicts will almost always have a detrimental effect on your business. This is something you have to solve.

With more than 30 years experience as a senior manager for Cotter Marketing, I’ve had the opportunity to gain a unique insight into the working relationships countless employees. I’ve seen life-long friendships made, perfect teams put together, and, most importantly, plenty of workplace arguments.

To give you the chance to take advantage of my knowledge and experience, I’ve prepared ten of my top tips to anyone managing a team which is fraught with animosity, enabling you to get past the challenges which can come when two employees simply won’t get on.

8 Tips To Manage Workplace Adversaries

The downside to Stock imagery why your workplace should match your online presence2

1# Decision Making

Putting two people together to make crucial decisions is never a good idea when they don’t like one another. They will already be poised for an argument, and this means that people in this position will often reject each others ideas out of principle and stubbornness.

Your business can’t afford to be paying people to dance with indecision, though. Instead, it’s best to avoid giving team members the chance to find themselves in this position, leaving decision making to those who work well as a team.

Decision making
Image by You X Ventures

2#  Distance By Design

As the manager or owner of the business you’re working for, you have the power to decide exactly how your office and other premises are laid out.

This provides you with an excellent opportunity to move those who are likely to argue away from one another, simply moving their seats or desks so that they can’t clash.

This is a great first step to take, and is something which has worked for my teams time and time again.

3#  Clique Busting

Some people are naturally drawn to one another, and you won’t have to do anything to turn them from team members to friends.

This can go too far, though, with cliques often forming in businesses which make it hard for those who are less popular to be social or work with their colleagues.

You should work hard to stop this from happening, and I’ve often found that staggering breaks is one of the best ways to achieve this goal.

Clique Busting
Image by Tim Gouw

4#  Mediation

While the people who work for you may be unwilling to talk to one another about their problems, they have little choice when it comes to talking to you. Acting as a mediator can be a risky game, though.

You need to be extremely careful to avoid coming across as having favorites, and this can easily be achieved by having one-to-one meetings with each party to chat about the issues they have with each other.

You can then look for ways to them to improve their relationship in subtle ways, like putting them onto projects that they are both passionate about.

5#  Acting Fast With Understanding

Being able to recognize conflict between your team members is the hallmark of a good manager, but it can’t stop here. You need to act as quickly as possible to resolve the issues your team members have with one another, or the situation will only get worse, with each person developing bitterness and their own reasons to dislike the other.

I’ve seen it myself; when arguments are left to fester, the whole workplace can be dragged down.

6# The Power Of The Group

The role of any manager spans far further than simply making sure that everyone does their work.

Alongside this, you need to know how to best utilize your team, and using them to help you to address problems with their teammates can be a great way to achieve this goal.

You shouldn’t use people as spies, but asking them about what they already know surrounding a conflict can provide you with invaluable information.

They may just be there to do their job, but arguments amongst their other team members will always impact everyone negatively.

7#  Building Friendships

The time people spend at work is very different to their free time, with many people changing the way they act when they are at work.

Having the opportunity to spend time with one another outside of work can enable your employees to see a different side to the people they work with, and this will often lead to friendships forming.

Getting everyone out together can be a challenge, though offering free food or drinks can be very helpful, and I’ve always found this to be a great team building exercise, even when people aren’t struggling.

8# Establishing Rules

It can be all too easy to find yourself wrapped up in arguments which have nothing to do with you when you’re managing a business.

To prevent this, you’re going to need to be strict, even if it feels hard to go down this route, and setting rules is one of the best ways to do this.

You may need to experiment to figure out what will work best in your workplace, though this is well worth the time you will spend on it.

Being a manager is a hard job, and I’ve seen my fair share of workplace conflicts over the last few decades.

Some issues will be easy to solve, with employees realizing that maintaining good work relationships will only benefit them. Alongside this, though, others can feel just about impossible to get right.

Setting the value of ‘respect’ as a cornerstone of your company culture can go along way in setting the right atmosphere.

Respect for your clients and respect for each other, from front office staff to back office. This needs to start with you.

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Author Bio: John is Managing Director of Cotter Marketing, Ireland’s leading manufacturing product distributor. They specialize in the supply of Gaskets and Vacuum Pumps to some of the biggest pharmaceutical and manufacturing brands in the world.