7-10-2017 How to Successfully Resolve Conflict between Staff Members Before It Blows Up
When key players at your firm with strong technical backgrounds or strong differing opinions do not get along well with one another this can have very serious consequences on the bottom line, morale, team building and employee satisfaction. If this is not addressed sooner rather than later, this can have a very negative impact on everyone involved. This article addresses how to address and overcome these concerns.
As a specialist that focuses on resolving conflict and negotiating winning solutions, I am brought into conflicts within businesses with these types of issues. Having a technical background in engineering and finance, I find with my business acumen background and my 30 plus years of technical and managerial experience this allows me to have some credibility these types of employees. This can be very helpful in this arena.
Ignoring the problem does not work.
If you see or you have been made aware of it you have to decide if you should act. Not acting sends a clear message that negative conflict between team members is an accepted mode of operation for the firm’s corporate culture. This can send a very negative message to everyone. How one reacts and when one reacts is very important. Hoping that things will get better without taking any action makes no sense. The longer you let this linger the greater the tensions will rise in the work unit.
What could have been done to be proactive and what might help now?
Relationship building and enhancing trust from the beginning is a very powerful tool. If there already is strong trust between you and the two parties you may very well be able to help mediate and bring the two parties together. If you do not have a strong relationship with both, it is imperative that you address this issue as soon as possible to demonstrate that you are truly interested in listening, understanding with empathy and helping the two parties to begin to understand competing concerns. It may even be possible to move toward collaboration with a common goal by the time this is finished.
Listen with empathy
As a generalization (Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray) men tend to listen to find a solution and women tend to listen to understand and show empathy. Much has been written and researched on this subject[i]. Check out the three links below. Avoid generalizations, since we are individuals. In this instance although there is an interest to find a solution to a bottom line issue, it is very important to truly listen to both parties. This will determine what kind of leader you are. Focus on the common goal, but realize one of the goals is for the team to function as a team. Some people can work through conflict with no repercussions. Others can be too proud or have their ego on the line to want to work through or deal with the conflict. Still others can feel bullied, afraid, or overwhelmed. This can take a real toll on oneself personally causing stress and anxiety at work and outside of the workplace.
Facts Issues Feelings and Interests (FIFI)[ii]
As a result of a one week mediation training class taken over 15 years ago at Hamline Law School (now Mitchell Hamline Law School) I learned the mediation technique of asking:
What are the Facts?
What are the Issues?
What are the Feelings behind each issue? (the emotion associated with each issue)
What are the interests?
By using a framework of FIFI and working with each party to address the facts, emotion and interests associated with each issue one on one, I found I was able to come into the situation after speaking with each separately and have a joint discussion with all of the parties. Over 500 mediations later using this simple model helps build trust with each of the parties separately. If you have their trust, bringing them together to address the issues using this format can be very helpful.
Once the issue has been addressed there is an opportunity to work on teambuilding to restore and reconstruct the unit. Communication, common goals, embracing healthy conflict and building relationships are key for moving the entire unit to becoming a functional vibrant team again. This will take time. Rebuilding trust is hard. There are many resources on team building.[iii] The key is build an effective team with trust and consensus and be a courageous follower as you facilitate the change on each stage of development. After a negative situation that may have poisoned relationships the team needs to again form, storm, norm in order to perform. This is a natural cycle of team building.
The bottom line
You simply cannot afford to ignore the situation. You need to be a servant manager and be there to coach, help, listen and work with the individuals to address the situation in an appropriate manner. In the end it is up to you, the manager, to address the situation. For an interesting related read you may want to check out this article from the Business Newsletter.
Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA is an international speaker, that helps organization resolve conflict and negotiate winning solutions. Mike is dedicated to making individuals, organizations, thought-leading entrepreneurs and executives more successful. Michael’s books, including The Servant Manager, How to Work with the IRS, Second Edition and his most recent book, now also available as an eBook, Peaceful Resolutions are available at this link. On point resources are available online at www.mikegreg.com and check out the blog. Contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (651) 633-5311
[ii] Gregory, Michael A., The Servant Manager: 203 tips from the best places to work in America, Birch Grove Publishing, Tip 38 pgs. 97-100
[iii] Gregory, Michael A., The Servant Manager: 203 tips from the best places to work in America, Birch Grove Publishing, pgs. 359 to 410