Sep 15

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Resolve conflicts objectively


Do you often feel like you need to walk on eggshells around fighting subordinates? Do arguments disrupt your employees’ workdays? Do you sometimes feel like you need to side with one employee or the other to truly resolve the conflict?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, here are four steps that will help you stay impartial while mediating a conflict between your employees:

  • Determine their limits. It can be difficult to get both employees to explain the root problem, so you’ll have to talk with each one personally. Find out what pushed them over the limit. Are they annoyed that their coworker takes two hours for lunch? Does one coworker engage the other in too much “mindless chit-chat?” Remember that no question is too small to ask during this stage. What seems like a silly question could lead to a productive answer.
  • Open the discussion. Fostering an open discussion between the disagreeing employees is the best way to clear the air, despite how awkward it can be. Sit in a neutral space, such as a conference room, and ask each person to state her professional goals and expectations. Keep the dialogue focused around work with words like “objective,” “target” and “expectations.”
  • Find healing. After both sides have stated their workplace goals and expectations, invite one subordinate to analyze how her behavior impedes the other’s ability to realize her goals. Then, ask the other one to do the same. Once they’re aware of how their actions harm the other’s career goals, they’ll be more likely to shape up.
  • Remember the human touch. Your employees need you to be objective and fair regarding their conflict. Instead of taking sides, provide a human touch and understand that sometimes the simplest resolution is the best — an explanation and an apology. Encourage your workers to make amends and move on.
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