Q. How do you resolve conflict between staff members?
A. Sue Burnett, President - When I have a conflict between staff members, I get both of the staffers in the same room with me so that I can hear both sides fairly. It is interesting how someone’s story changes when the other side is sitting beside them.
When you are listening to both sides, you may need to make a clear?cut decision and then explain the reasons for your decision. Too many bosses have a fear of confrontation and they don’t want to alienate a coworker; therefore, they say, “I’ll let you know my decision” and never get back to them. Or they say, “Work it out between you.” If they could have worked it out, there wouldn’t be a conflict.
A. Debbie D’Ambrosio, VP - Risk Management - When there is a conflict between employees, the main thing is to let each person have their say. Many times a person wants to voice their concern or opinion. As a manager, you need to be that sounding board without alienating either side. As the mediator and manager, you may need to bring the focus back to what is important to the company. Many times the goal of the company is forgotten because of the conflict. Once that is brought back to the focus, then it may be easier to resolve what has caused the problem.
A. Edna Hardin, District Manager - Conflict between staff members needs to be addressed immediately before it affects the whole team. The staff members should meet and discuss their differences in a polite and non-confrontational manner. A 3rd party should be involved if tensions are extremely high. The discussion should stay focused on their work issues and how it is affecting their performance rather than discussing personal issues. Each staff member should listen carefully to the other person and not interrupt. They should work together to find a solution that both can agree on.
A. Ruth Reading, District Manager - Typically I meet with each person to get their perception of what is causing the conflict. You have to keep in mind that whatever that person’s perception is reality to them. I listen as long as it takes, so that they are able to communicate all of their information without interruption or having me trying to defend either position. In my experience you cannot begin to address their concerns until they have been able to tell you everything they want to share. Once they have done that, I try to address specific points, usually saying something like, “I am sure that Diane did not set out with evil intent to make you feel whatever”. Typically, when they hear that they are quick to jump in and say, “Oh, I agree, she is not meaning to cause xyz conflict and did not have evil intent”. That usually gets them starting to think more logically and with less emotion since most of the people we work with are not purposely setting out to cause conflict.
Once these conversations have taken place, I encourage a timely meeting with all parties and myself. I want to have the meeting sooner than later to get the conflict out of the way. Since both parties have already spoken with me, by the time we meet together much of the emotion has already been diffused and we are able to be honest in communicating the reasons for the conflict. Then, we are usually able to agree on a path to avoid further conflict.
A. Jessica Wheeler, District Manager - The way I handle conflicts depends on if I manage both employees or if I manage only one of the individuals. If I only manage one of the individuals, I get with the other manager and we develop a game plan together. If I manage both, initially, I encourage staff to handle disagreements between themselves and to escalate it up to me, if needed. When I get involved, I usually meet with them individually to find out the details and discover how they feel the conflict should be resolved. Then, I meet with both staff members. I go in with a plan to resolve the conflict, but ask questions so that the staff members develop their own conclusion that they both agree on. If they cannot agree, I mention we may need to each give a little to meet in the middle and I go over my plan to resolve the conflict.
Tactics vary depending upon different management styles, but these practices have been proven to be very effective for managers within our company. Hopefully, some of these tips will help you when conflict arises between your employees.