Staying aware of conflict-related red flags is also essential, says Bob Gemignani, senior vice president and chief talent officer for New York-based communications consultancy Hill & Knowlton, Inc.
"First and foremost is scarcity of resources," Gemignani
says of the top causes of employee dispute.
"The second one is different values, attitudes and perceptions, and then I would say a lack of agreement about needs, goals, and priorities.
Other environmental troublemakers, he
says, include poor communications, inadequate organizational structure for teamwork and unclear goals and responsibilities.
When four people share an assistant, Gemignani
says of a classic scarcity of resources scenario, little wonder arguments arise as to how that employee should prioritize the work of the people he
The solution: Having that many supervisors for one employee is never a good idea, Gemignani points out, but to make it better, one manager among the four could be appointed, on a rotating basis, to set the worker's priorities.
Also beware of situations in which one person's decisions unilaterally affect the comfort of numerous others.
Sometimes the cause of such office-bound oppression can be silly.
recalls a dispute that arose due to the placement of a thermostat in an employee's office.
The problem was the thermostat not only controlled the temperature of that worker's own office, but the offices of a few co-workers, as well.
The only way it would work, he
advised, was for all affected to agree on what the temperature should be, and not allow anyone to touch it without prior discussion.
Poor communication is another potential hot button issue.
"Assuming somebody else is taking care of something, and then when it falls between the cracks, searching for the guilty" is a common consequence of not communicating clearly enough with co-workers, says Gemignani
A similar outcome is likely when goals and responsibilities aren't clear.
"The remedies for most of these things," Gemignani
advises, "are that managers should communicate regularly and spell things out clearly, be certain job descriptions accurately reflect what an employee is responsible for, and provide feedback often."