Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire
Prevent Office Conflict

How To Prevent Office Conflict During The Hiring Process

There are many aspects of a career that may cause stress for employees. Perhaps it’s the commute, or maybe it’s a demanding client or a tight deadline that leaves the employee unable to fall asleep at night due to work concerns. However, in addition to these stressors, research shows that 90 percent of employees have experienced conflict in the workplace last year, which can directly contribute to dissatisfaction and higher turnover rates at an office. So, how do you prevent office conflict?

While there’s not much a hiring manager can do about an employee’s commute or their ability to cope with deadline pressures, they can play a proactive role in making their office a pleasant place to spend the day. In fact, some of the most effective ways to do this start with the hiring process. Here are some tips on improving the hiring process to reduce conflict in the office:

Hire with personality type in mind.

While you want to find an experienced, competent person during your hiring process, you also need to consider how this professional will contribute to workplace dynamics should they receive a job offer. If this individual has all of the skills to excel in the position, yet has a personality type that’s going to cause tension in the office, it’s worth reconsidering your hiring choice.

Personality has more of an impact than many hiring managers might imagine when they’re making a decision about who should receive the job offer. Your employees are spending a solid majority of their lives at work, so if they have to come in and deal with someone who picks fights, lashes out, or is otherwise unpleasant, this is quickly going to turn that office into a hostile place to do business.

When it’s time to make a choice about who to hire, consider the full picture. If you’re not sure that this person will enhance the existing team dynamic, you may want to move in another direction.

Get buy-in from more than one manager.

Each member of an office has a major impact on what it’s like to work in that company. You’re not just impacting the members of your department either; each employee inevitably interfaces with people from other departments of the company, and therefore needs to be someone who the rest of the staff enjoys dealing with on a daily basis.

Because of this, during the hiring process, you should get feedback from supervisors from other departments before they make a choice. Ultimately, you know who will work best on your team, but you’ll want to hear from other managers about concerns regarding this person’s ability to cooperate with their staff members. This is why many organizations favor panel style interviews.

Stop and consider who’s been successful in this kind of role in the past.

While the past isn’t always an indicator of future success, reflecting on the kinds of people who have previously excelled in this role can help hiring managers continue to make wise choices as far as future hiring goes.

If, for example, the brightest stars within the team are typically those who love to collaborate and brainstorm with others, hiring a deeply introverted type who insists on shutting the door to their office and working on their own may not be the most ideal choice. Without meaning to, this individual will probably alienate themselves from the rest of the team and put a damper on collaborative energy that flows within the organization.

Ask your current employees for their take on the type of person you should hire.

Because every individual contributes to the overall office dynamic, you may want to get feedback from veteran team members about the kind of individual they think would fit best when it comes time to expand your staff. They may have keen insight about personality types, skills, and other attributes that would enhance the office, as well as suggestions about the kinds of people to avoid.

Plus, showing that you value the opinions of your staff members is important for office morale. When it comes down to the final stages of hiring, consider having a select handful of employees (probably your more senior people) meet the potential new team member so they can offer their insight on whether this individual would blend in well.

Be clear and honest in your job description.

Yes, writing a job description is time consuming, but putting some effort into the post before you plaster it on your website or job forums can benefit both the applicant and the hiring manager alike. When you’re explicitly clear about what the position entails during the hiring process, what is expected of the employee, and what the company is like, you save yourself from hiring someone who comes into the position blindly and ultimately ends up being a poor fit.

Every detail, such as who the staff member will report to, the kinds of projects they will work on, how many other people are on the team, and the hours the individual is expected to work paint a clear and necessary picture for those who may be interested in the role. When you lay it all out in advance, you help to prevent miscommunications from popping up down the road.

Teach your managers how to coach different personality types.

While searching for personalities that will blend with your culture during the hiring process is ideal, it’s inevitable that some conflict will arise. Sometimes it stems from a clash between personality types. Employee A communicates one way, while Employee B communicates in a drastically different way, and their styles don’t always mesh well. They may take personal offense at the way their co-worker addresses them in the cafeteria or signs an e-mail, when really this person actually means no harm at all.

To mitigate these issues, managers should learn how to navigate these personality differences, and work with a variety of different kinds of people. You don’t want a team of staff members who all think and behave exactly the same, so it’s important to learn how to work effectively with a number of unique personality types.

When a manager can help staff members understand one another and get along more effectively, they decrease the chance of conflict within the office. The employees don’t have to want to spend the weekends hanging out with their colleagues, but mutual respect and understanding are essential in order to keep the workplace functioning properly.

Set up ways for employees to get to know one another on a personal level.

In order to promote office harmony, hiring managers should set up opportunities for team members to get to know each other on more than just a “Hi, how are you?” level. This often helps to prevent conflict from developing, as it promotes deeper understanding and a willingness to work together. These events could be as simple as a monthly happy hour, a company kickball league or a lunchtime Book Club.

Set job expectations and lay out the chain of command.

In many offices, tensions arise when job descriptions and the chain of command aren’t clear. Bob doesn’t think a particular task is part of his role so he tries to pass it off to John, who then tries to pass it off to Margaret, who gets frustrated and lashes out and complains to her manager until they all end up in that manager’s office for a sit-down.

In other instances, employees might go above their direct supervisor’s head to the manager above that individual, causing frustration and distrust. To prevent these issues from causing conflict to brew, make sure that job expectations and the chain of command within the office are clear during the hiring process. Employees should know who handles which tasks, and how the decision-making process unfolds in the office.

Streamline the communication process.

Your employees’ time is valuable, and many of your staff members probably feel stretched thin as they try to accomplish everything that’s asked of them on a daily basis. Conflict can pop up at work when inter-office communication processes make it even more difficult for a professional to do their job. Unnecessary paperwork, meetings that run longer than they need to, or email chains that go on and on when a phone call could solve the issue in just a few minutes are all sources of aggravation that can eventually lead to conflict at work. Be aware of ways in which you can streamline office processes to benefit your employees.

Even before an individual becomes part of your team, you can help to preserve that person’s time and energy. The use of scheduling software and video interviewing makes it much easier to get the hiring process underway. Instead of sending a dozen emails back and forth trying to get an initial interview on the books, you can use a piece of software to do the heavy lifting for you so you can direct your attention to more pressing matters.

Video interviewing is another highly useful tool for both hiring managers and job seekers alike. Instead of trying to sync up your schedules, the applicant can answer a series of prompts when it’s convenient for them, and the hiring manager can watch them when their schedule allows.

Another bonus? Instead of blocking out an hour for a face-to-face conversation only to find out that this individual simply isn’t a good fit for the position, the hiring manager is able to pre-screen the candidate. If it turns out that they might be a good prospect for the open position, the manager can bring them in for further discussions.

Once you’ve hired a new team member, it’s important to continue to focus on keeping the peace within the office each day. Here are some ways in which a hiring manager can ensure that employees remain productive and that conflicts aren’t allowed to disrupt the business environment:

Handle favoritism.

Even the most seasoned hiring managers are inevitably going to end up with employees they feel especially connected to. Perhaps they share the same die-hard loyalty to a sports team, maybe their kids play soccer together, or maybe they share the same type of humor. Whatever the reason, this is just part of human nature.

However, it’s important not to let favoritism come into play at work, as this can be highly detrimental to employee morale. Before you know it, staffers might begin undermining one another to command the attention of the manager, or they might suspect that the boss’s favoritism impacts who gets assigned to which projects when new work comes in. Keeping personal preferences out of the workplace is essential.

Dealing with office gossip.

Some degree of office gossip is inevitable, no matter how mature your staff members are. Are Jim and Susan an item? Why does Tammy go sit in her car each day at 3pm? Some of this water cooler chitchat is harmless. Yet when office gossip swirls nonstop, it can become distracting and can cause a division among the team that grinds productivity to a halt.  Make it a point to handle problematic office gossip before it detracts from team members’ abilities to do their jobs.

Handle problem employees as quickly as possible.

Terminating an employee is probably every hiring manager’s least favorite task. You know that you’re disrupting this individual’s life and putting a strain on their finances. With this in mind, some professionals will avoid dismissing an employee for as long as possible in order to duck the unpleasantness of the situation.

However an employee who’s not performing to the best of their ability can quickly become a disruption to the entire office and may incite conflict among the staff. Therefore, it’s essential to dismiss this individual as soon as it becomes apparent that they are no longer performing to the necessary standards.

Developing a positive company culture where employees collaborate with one another and look forward to arriving at the office each day is essential to productivity, and also helps to reduce turnover levels. To help make this possible, hiring managers should focus on preventing office conflicts whenever possible.

A thoughtful and strategic hiring process can make this happen. When you’re putting careful consideration into the personality types of your new hires, you’re ensuring that you’re building a team filled with hard workers who want to help their colleagues succeed.

Do you prevent office conflict during the hiring process? If so, how? Let us know in the comments!

Lauren Levine

Lauren Levine is a copywriter/blogger who contributes to a number of magazines and websites including The Frisky, USA Today, and others. She also authors her own blog called Life with Lauren. She loves cooking, anything on the E! network, and is trying to convince herself that running isn't so bad.