Every manager, or anyone who has a relationship with another person, is going to experience conflict.
While conflict is unavoidable, avoiding resolutions is not acceptable if you are going to be a successful manager. In a circumstance where two people, who report to you, are having an acrimonious disagreement you will need a thoughtful approach with some options to resolve the problem.
As their manager, it is always unacceptable to have subordinates who are not civil toward one another. Screaming at each other is not going to resolve issues and will only diminish respect from others in the company. The first step is to get the facts and determine if the conflict affects the company or if it is a personal issue. If you determine it is a workplace issue and you 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 which includes listening. What you don’t want is two televisions facing each other while the volume just gets louder. Thoughtful listening and respect for each other is critical in resolving conflict.
Your first reaction should not be to jump in and take on this responsibility, but instead, remind them you hired “adults” who should be more interested in resolving conflict than creating it. However, if it is clear they need your help, you will need to establish the rules of engagement. When each person is describing the situation, it is important to make sure 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, rather than making personal attacks. Make sure they don’t allege intent of the other person until they first check it out. Finally, encourage the adversaries to focus on personal and company goals and objectives, affirming their solutions and behaviors match the desired outcomes of both.
The problem people have when they argue is they only want the other person to listen to them; they don’t want to listen to the other person. In order to facilitate “active listening”, decide on who will talk first and tell the other person that before they can respond, they must first repeat back what the person said; doing their best to lay out what they think the underlying motivation is for the other person’s words and or actions. Often, the underlying motivation for their opinion is the crucial issue and once understood, the issue can be resolved.
Once you have both sides listening to one another, try to establish what they agree upon and ascertain where the 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!
Remember, good management does not mean you want to take ownership of every situation. Instead, push the responsibility downward to the people who work for you, telling them what your expectations are and how you will hold them accountable for their behavior.
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Founded in 1987, Career Partners International is a leading provider of Outplacement, Career Management, Executive Coaching and Leadership Development services from more than 300 offices in over 45 countries. Employers around the world trust Career Partners International’s local market experts to provide the best possible outcomes for employees across Canada, the United States, Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific regions.