Anywhere people work together, there can be friction, conflict, and behavior challenges. Some level of conflict within teams is expected and can be healthy and generative. However, it is also important to recognize unhealthy dynamics and address them directly as these behaviors may slowly undermine the organization’s culture and workers’ sense of safety in the workplace.
Organizations benefit from having a clear grievance policy outlined in their employee handbook. This policy provides an avenue for any worker to raise a concern and have the concern addressed by leadership. If you have a grievance policy in place, be sure you follow it. If you do not have a policy in place, a typical grievance policy will include:
- How a worker can report a grievance and to whom (with provisions to go to a designated person on the board if the grievance involves the Executive Director).
- A specific time period for a response to a grievance.
If your leadership does not have relevant training to address the grievance, consider getting outside help to investigate serious concerns. If there are safety issues, act quickly to ensure safety for all affected parties. If there is a concern about financial malfeasance, begin by ensuring the organization’s funds are secure.
If you witness or learn about behavior that is illegal or inappropriate given your organization’s code of conduct, it is important to take action. In addition to interrupting harm to victims of the behavior, taking action is important because you may risk legal issues if you fail to intervene. In nonprofits, this may include misconduct by board members or donors, who may have positional power over workers and can use their position in inappropriate ways. Examples of serious workplace infractions include:
- Sexual harassment
- Use of illegal drugs at work
You may also face interpersonal conflicts among staff that do not rise to the same level as the issues described above. In this case, you can sometimes play a role in facilitating dialogue between the people involved. Through the facilitated dialogue, help people understand the nature of the compliant and find solutions that work for all parties. Stay calm, listen to all the people involved, and seek understanding. If you are one of the people involved, try to see both sides of the issue and assume positive intent on the part of others. Seek assistance if you are unable to resolve the conflict yourself. You may find assistance by looking internally to another team member or by looking externally for a mediator or facilitator skilled in workplace conflicts.