Get a Grip on Employee Conflict

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A client recently asked me to help him resolve some staff conflicts within his marketing team. At the surface, it looked like the staff were insubordinate, reactive and uncooperative. However, after some discussions with all of the staff, it became clear that the real issue was GRPI (pronounced grip-i), not insubordination. Is GRPI a rare disease from Africa? No. However, it is a common disease amongst many organizations. A disease that can cause low morale, frustration, poor productivity and reduced sales. So what is GRPI and how can it be cured?

GRPI stands for Goals, Roles, Procedures and Interpersonal. Often interpersonal issues, such as low morale or poor teamwork, are symptoms of a bigger issue. Managers often see the interpersonal issues and assume that coaching or team building exercises are needed. This may be the case. However, looking at the organization as a whole, especially relating to Goals, Roles and Procedures, may often be the case as well.

What do Goals, Roles and Procedures have to do about interpersonal staff issues? Everything. Think about it. Imagine Mary is a new employee, excited to make a difference in her work. She asks questions, listens well and performs her tasks in record time. However, she has no idea what her departmental goals are, or the overall goals of the organization. In addition, she is not clear on her role in her team, and how her role helps the organization move forward. Finally, she doesn’t understand the procedures for working effectively in the organization. As you can imagine, after awhile, she’ll start to wonder what she’s doing, and why. She’ll question if her efforts are truly making a difference. And more importantly, she won’t understand the roles of the others in the organization, so she won’t know who to speak with about her concerns. After awhile she’ll pay less attention in meetings and be less willing to engage with a team. Even if a manager sees this and attempts to revive her interest with team building retreats, she still will be unsure of the organization’s Goals, Roles and Procedures. Eventually, she will leave, and it will cost 2-3 times her salary to replace her.

So what can you do to prevent this from happening to your organization?

1. Goals
Be sure that your top team knows the organization’s mission and major goals. Then ensure that your team is constantly focusing on the those goals with all of the employees. Remember the ‘6X’ rule; people need to hear something six times, in different ways, before they absorb it. So don’t just send an email about the goals. Hold meetings, send emails, post signs, do a video, create a postcard…do whatever you need to do so that everyone knows the organizational goals, and how their departmental goals contribute to the overall organizational goals.

2. Roles
There are formal, and informal, roles in every organizations. Formal roles are those seen on an organizational chart; informal roles are often those of “influencers”, those people that do not hold official positions, yet hold sway over an organization. Both are vitally important. So help all employees know the formal and informal roles of the senior team, and more importantly, what each employee’s role is in the organization.

3. Procedures
Although creating standard operating procedures (SOP’s) can be time consuming at first, it will save you vast amounts of time later. Every new employee will benefit from SOP’s, whether a new hires, or a current employee who is new to a certain department. Having updated SOP’s which are easily accessible for all employees to reference will not only ensure a consistent product and service, it will also help employees perform their jobs better.

Once the Goals, Roles and Procedures are in place, the Interpersonal issues often resolve themselves. Knowledge is power. If an employee understands these three things, they often see the big picture and how they fit in the organization, which leads to a more confident and secure employee.

So next time you see some conflicts amongst your staff, step back and assess the situation. Is it about those particular individuals? Or is more systemic, with similar conflicts occurring throughout the organization? If it’s the latter, then check your GRPI. You may need to improve your grip to remove this disease from your organization.

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