Summer vacation is a time when most staff look forward to taking a break from work. In workplaces infused with conflict, many staff members are equally excited when others take time off, particularly those who cause day-to-day stress and tension in the workplace. Indeed, many staff members have confided that they schedule their vacation at a different time than “challenging” co-workers in order to increase their overall time away from them! This is one of many examples where employees adjust their personal lives in order to “self-manage” ongoing, unaddressed workplace conflict.
Vacation time is a perfect opportunity for supervisors and managers to monitor the workplace atmosphere for signs of dysfunction. Does usual office tension seem to “disappear” when a particular employee leaves on vacation? Does the tension suddenly return when they are back? Is there a pattern of staff adjusting their schedules to avoid working with particular employees?
Observations like this should not be left unattended. Check in with your staff in a respectful and confidential manner. Do a “reality-check” about what you think you are seeing. If you are wrong, they will let you know. If you are right, they will give you further insights on the dynamics. Either way, staff will know that you cared enough to ask. Over time, engaging in “active supervision” of this nature will result in a loyal and trusting group of employees.