BY DAN PORTES, CAREER PARTNERS INTERNATIONAL – DAVENPORT
Every manager, or anyone who has a relationship with another person, is going to experience conflict at some point. While conflict is unavoidable, avoiding resolutions is unacceptable if you are going to be a successful manager. When two people who report to you are having an acrimonious disagreement, you will need a thoughtful approach with some options to resolve the problem effectively.
As their manager, it is always unacceptable to have subordinates who are not civil toward one another. Screaming at each other will not resolve issues and will only diminish the respect others in the company have for all involved.
The first step to effective conflict resolution is to get all the facts, and to then determine if the conflict affects the company or if it is a solely personal issue. If you determine it is a workplace issue and decide to take ownership of the resolutions, you will need to diffuse the situation as quickly as possible. The best way to start is either by separating the adversaries or by setting ground rules for a civil discussion that includes listening to the other parties and their point of view. What you don’t want is two televisions facing each other while the volume just gets louder and louder. Thoughtful listening and respect for one another is critical in resolving conflict.
Your first reaction should not be to jump in and take on this responsibility though. Instead, remind them you hired capable adults who should be more interested in resolving conflict than creating it. However, if it is clear that they need your help, you will need to establish the rules of engagement for them.
When each person is describing the situation, it is important to make sure that the individual is speaking for him or herself, not for the group for which they are working. Encourage them to focus on their own actions and the actions of others in relation to one another, rather than making personal attacks that will only escalate the situation. Make sure they don’t allege what the intent of the other person was or is until they first check it out and listen to that person’s point of view. Finally, encourage the adversaries to focus on personal goals and objectives as well as company ones, affirming their solutions and behaviors that match the desired outcomes of both.
he problem people have when they argue is that they want the other person to only listen to them. They don’t want to listen to the other person or their point of view. In order to facilitate “active listening,” you must decide who will talk first during mediation. Then tell the other person that, before they can respond, they must first repeat back what the initial speaker said while also doing their best to lay out what they think the underlying motivation is for the other person’s words and/or actions. More often than not, the underlying motivation for their opinion is the crucial issue and, once understood, can help resolve it more easily.
Once you have both sides listening to one another, try to establish what they agree upon and ascertain where their differences are. Ask each of them to come up with a compromise position in the areas in which there are differences. Move each side to accept the compromised positions and, if there are still some areas of contention, step up to the plate and resolve it for them!
Good management does not mean you want to take ownership of every situation. Instead, push the responsibility downward to the people who report to you, telling them what your expectations are and how you will hold them accountable for their behavior moving forward. Doing so facilitates more effective conflict resolution in the workplace and encourages employees to take greater responsibility for their actions and behavior in the long-run.