Conflict in the workplace is part of the natural order. Everyone conducts themselves in their own way, and it can be difficult to account for the feelings and opinions of others at all times. Even those who are extremely self-aware can find themselves locked in an argument with a co-worker or supervisor over personal differences that may have nothing to do with the project at hand; however, just because an argument isn’t work-related, doesn’t necessarily mean that its effect on the success of a project will be nullified. This is how many conflicts begin, but it’s far from the only way. Lack of attentiveness, disregard for safety, and insubordination can all play a role in cultivating a tense work environment, too.
Conflicts on the project site can arise for any number of reasons, which means that handling conflict on a case-by-case basis, while necessary, isn’t always going to prevent conflict from happening in the first place. As a contractor, this is something you must strive to do if you want to maintain your bottom line and avoid fines, delays, and other setbacks. Handling conflict isn’t easy and managing others isn’t simple, but it’s part of the job, and contractors have no choice but to embrace successful management practices to ensure that conflicts are curtailed before they spiral out of control.
As Nashville construction lawyers, we’ve seen firsthand how conflict can lead to legal complications. When employees don’t gel and fail to find common ground, it’s a recipe for delays, budget overruns, and other complications. In this editorial, a Nashville construction lawyer will discuss several practical tips for reducing the frequency of conflict on the project site, thereby helping you avoid butting heads with owners, subcontractors, and employees alike.
Understand That Small Actions Have Big Consequences
Before our Nashville contractor lawyers get into the fine minutiae of conflict resolution and prevention, let’s take a step back and consider this common work-related scenario which highlights how small actions can have bigger-than-anticipated consequences:
“Bob” works Mondays through Fridays for a construction supplier in Nashville. He loves what he does for a living, but he’s begun to second-guess his employment. Although he gets along with his boss and fellow employees, he’s started to become agitated with certain behaviors being perpetuated by his co-workers — never refilling the coffee machine, taking excessively long lunches, leaving the trash can full, engaging in inappropriate conversational topics, and more. Individually, these microaggressions don’t hold much weight, but over time, as they compound, it starts to take a toll on Bob. Now, he is looking for employment elsewhere.
Small actions can have big consequences. All of the little considerations (i.e., refilling the coffee machine, taking out the trash) that go unnoticed or forgotten can have a detrimental effect on workplace culture. This is even more apparent in the construction industry, where a lack of attentiveness or a careless attitude can result in another person becoming injured or worse. In other words, everything is magnified on the project site, including the severity of the types of conflicts that transpire there. Therefore, as Nashville construction attorneys, we recommend that contractors monitor their workforce closely and “nip it in the bud” when bad behavior arises. If you or a supervisor notices any of the following behavior, address it swiftly and harshly to prevent further conflict:
- Extreme absenteeism
- Recreational drug use
- Sexual harassment
- Conflicts of interest
- Misuse of company property
- Workplace violence
Review Policies to Keep Them Top of Mind
Even with an employee handbook written by an experienced Nashville construction attorney, you must review policies with your workforce to ensure that they are being respected and followed. Remember, the health and wellbeing of your workforce is vital to your success, too. Reviewing your policies at least twice a year can help keep them top of mind. Reviewing your policies also gives you a chance to address any holes in your employee handbook and to update old policies that are no longer effective. Make sure that your workforce is made aware of any changes to your employee handbook and has accepted a new agreement if necessary. Pay close attention to provisions dealing with safety and employee conduct as these are some of the most common sources of project site conflict.
Related: Is Your Employee Handbook Current?
Invest in Conflict Resolution Training
The site manager can’t be around to solve every single dispute that arises during the course of a project, which means that supervisors will have to step in whenever something doesn’t go according to plan. If your supervisors have never been trained in conflict resolution, it might be a good time to start. Ask your supervisors questions, such as:
- Is your approach to management assertive or cooperative?
- How do you respond to conflict? Accommodating? Avoiding? Collaborating? Competing? Compromising?
- What makes you uncomfortable about responding to conflict?
- What types of conflict are difficult to respond to?
This training can be immensely valuable for squashing conflict before it has a chance to take root, which could help you avoid costs related to workers’ compensation, project delays, and more.
Partner With a Nashville Contractor Lawyer
Keep in mind that one of the main goals of preventing conflict is to cut down on what typically follows — legal disputes. By partnering with one of the Nashville contractor lawyers at Cotney Construction Law, you can do just that. Our experienced team of legal professionals can help you overcome the obstacles plaguing other contractors just like you by helping you reduce conflict on the project site. Starting with an expertly drafted employee handbook that clearly and cohesively outlines all of your company policies, we can help you build a strong foundation for a workplace culture that honors doing things the “right” way and keeps all workers on the same page at all times.
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.