When things go wrong on the project site, tempers flare, resulting in harsh words and regrettable actions. It’s a natural part of an industry that subjects its workers to long hours of physical labor, but it’s something that must be avoided at all costs to keep projects chugging along smoothly. You can’t avoid conflict altogether, but you can train yourself (and your workers) to better handle the types of situations that result in workplace conflict. By doing so, you can foster a stronger workforce that doesn’t fall prey to petty arguments or minor incidents that escalate into full-blown catastrophes.
Mitigating conflict starts with earning the respect of all of your employees. And the only way to do this is to communicate with them in a clear, impartial way that shows you care without supporting negative behaviors. When your workers know you are listening, they are less likely to act out.
In this editorial, an Orlando construction lawyer from Cotney Construction Law will discuss several helpful phrases that you can adopt to help you diffuse volatile situations on the project site. The ability to de-escalate a tense situation can help you eliminate avoidable work-related injuries, instances of workplace violence, and other interactions that can hinder productivity and lead to legal action. The inability to control workplace conflicts could lead to legal troubles, including steep fines and lawsuits. If you are concerned about activity taking place on your project site, consult our Orlando construction lawyers for legal assistance.
“Let’s Fix This Problem Together.”
Every contractor should have this phrase in their wheelhouse before dealing with any work-related issue. It’s an important one because it puts both employer and employee on the same side of the issue. In other words, it capably establishes a partnership to deal with whatever issue has arisen, whether it’s a defect, delay, or something else altogether. This allows problems to be confronted openly without creating additional conflict. Construction is a collaborative effort, which means even a single conflict among team members can cause significant disruptions in the project timeline.
“Let’s Take a Deep Breath Before We Figure This Out.”
When emotions are at an all-time high, the best way to cut the tension is with a deep breath; just make sure you take a deep breath as well so that your employee doesn’t feel singled out. Use this moment to reset the energy on the project site and establish a calm atmosphere. It’s important that you don’t use this phrase as a means to silence your workers before you get on your soapbox. You want to make an earnest attempt to “take things down a notch,” allowing you to address the issue and collaborate on a solution. Take it from us, our Orlando construction attorneys have experienced plenty of emotional courtroom cases that required a deep breath to get through.
“Thank You For Being Honest and Open. Your Feedback is Greatly Appreciated.”
Typically, there’s no suggestion box on the project site, which means worker feedback must be communicated through more direct methods. Even when a worker’s thoughts or ideas are at odds with your own, you should be appreciative of their resolve to enact change for (hopefully) the better. Establishing an open door policy is a great way to encourage workers to speak out about how work processes can be improved. When workers aren’t afraid to speak up, they are less likely to stay quiet when project site conditions are dangerous or a worker’s behavior is unsuitable for the project site. Apart from listening and acknowledging, be certain to thank your workers for their feedback.
“Your Hard Work and Effort Are Evident.”
Have you ever held a job where you were clearly outperforming your contemporaries but never received any praise or adulation for doing so? It can be extremely frustrating to give it 110 percent each and every day without any recognition. Sometimes, this frustration leads to a dip in productivity as workers rationalize that no penalty seems to exist for slacking off. Informing your workers that their hard work and effort are noticed and appreciated can help prevent the development of a worker who once showed true potential but has since given up. Even if a worker is underperforming, letting them know that they are valued may just be the catalyst they need to take their work ethic to the next level.
“I Sense That You’re Feeling Emotional. Let’s Discuss.”
Emotions are complicated. This makes dealing with an emotional person more difficult than a person who is in control of their emotions. Of course, people are more likely to feel emotional when they feel they have been wronged in some way. Addressing this incident and the emotions it has unleashed is one way to show an employee that you care about their well-being and acknowledge their feelings. This phrase also shows that you are paying attention. Many workers feel isolated. They clock in, work, clock out, and return home, sometimes saying nary a word to their coworkers. Unless you make the effort to show that you care, how will they truly know that you do?
Related: Construction Site Management Tips
“I Want to Understand. Give Me More Information.”
Ideas aren’t always expressed clearly the first time around. Just because an employee has given their side of the story doesn’t necessarily mean you got all of the necessary information to make an informed decision. If it seems like information is missing or you don’t understand the root of the problem, explain that you want to understand but require more information. Your worker will be pleased to hear that you want to hear them out and haven’t already passed judgment on the situation (even if you already have).
“Let’s Make a Plan to Prevent This From Happening Again.”
Hate the conflict, not the employee, and never position yourself at odds with an employee that you hope to retain. Even if they made a big mistake, focus on the mistake, not the person who made it. When you don’t place blame on an individual (or individuals) but still address the underlying cause of the problem, you educate the rest of your workers while also showing your errant workers that you believe in them. In many cases, this is enough to keep them from making the same mistake twice. Remember, you’re not trying to point the finger at the guilty party, you’re a contractor trying to complete your projects on time and protect your bottom line. In order to do so, you’ll need to keep your workers close and avoid alienating them with harsh, unproductive criticism.
“You Are Right.”
This is a simple phrase that, when used strategically, can help you enter a dialogue with a frustrated or flustered worker. Let’s face it, you and your workers aren’t always going to see eye to eye. In fact, you might think their opinions are blatantly erroneous or absent of logic. Still, you need to bridge the gap if you want to communicate with them, and this starts by making a small concession to get the conversation started. Find a point you can agree with an unload this classic phrase: “You are right.” Your employee may be surprised to hear that you agree with them, at which point you can transition into a lesson on the things they weren’t necessarily correct about.
At Cotney Construction Law, our Orlando construction lawyers have handled all manner of construction-related legal cases. Our experience extends from the project site to the courtroom, giving us unique insight into the problems faced by contractors and construction professionals on a daily basis. We recognize the importance of maintaining strong relationships with your workers. Clear communication is the key, but you’ll have to make a concentrated effort and shrug off your ego if you want to improve your leadership capabilities and prevent conflict. Conflict creates chaos, and chaos leads to legal ramifications. Don’t be caught off guard; consult an Orlando construction attorney.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.