According to Forbes.com, 50% of employees said they accomplished less because of an office conflict, and 46% even considered quitting. It can’t be easy to constantly search for the workforce replacement, or ways to recover the team’s productivity after another conflict. That’s why working to preventthem among team members should be a priority for every manager. Here a few simple tips on how to do it:
- Monitor tensions.When you are working in a team, occasional opinion clashes and bickering are quite common.As a team leader, it’s your job to keep an eye on how employees interact and step in before things go bad. Sometimes it can mean moving people around to keep abrasive personality types apart.
- Foster “open-communication.”It works both ways: you, as a team lead, need toconstantly provide timely and constructive feedback to your team. Just as the team members should know they can openly discuss withyouany issues they think require improvement, be it a task-related problem, inter-team conflict or management remark.
John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, is a big proponent of open communication and communicate regularly with the company’s 73,000 employees. Seventy-five percent of Cisco employees agree that the “Cisco leadership team communicates openly and honestly to employees.”
- Support peer review.This method helps to see the problem or a task from a different angle. This way, the team canmake improvements to the task, reveal its “blind spots” or just polish it, without distracting the manager.
Risk International, a provider of risk-management services that works with Fortune 500 companies, makes sure the results of peer reviews matter. For instance, once the reviews displayed the employees’ need to be better informed of the business’s health, the company launched monthly information-sharing get-togethers and biannual meetings at which the employees review the company’s business plan.
- Bring in the fun. You might have heard about how Google offers massages, game rooms, and free cafeterias for employees, but it doesn’t stop there. Work for the tech giant and you may even be able to get free haircuts, dry cleaning, car washes, and a ride to and from work. How does this solve conflicts? Well, it doesn’t in and of itself, but people tend to be less on edge when they’re being pampered.
Of course, there might be a hot, yet constructive dispute, where the truth may sometimes be born. However, if you spot a dangerous spark of conflict between team members, you need to step in a.s.a.p.
- Keep it small.Try to handle the situation with only the parties involved. One California-based law firm created a system whereby the partners first talk to each other one-on-one, then bring in a third party, and only then involve the rest of the team. Most conflicts there are resolved quickly and efficiently.
- Make them see both sides of the coin.To come to an objective decision, it’s important to see the issue from every perspective. Rory Rowland, speaker, consultant and author of “My Best Boss Ever”, used an interesting technique to resolve a conflict between two of his employees:first person couldn’t restate his position until he stated the second person’s position to his approval.This forced both employees to step out of their own complaints and look at the other side.
- Tackle problems, not employees.It’s important to point out the distinction between the problem and the conflict sides, and avoid making personal attacks. However, it’s not uncommon to have “problem” team members who tend to have more disagreements and cause work slowdowns. In a more perfect world, it would be possible to identify them before hire.
Terry Sember, the author of “Bad Apples: How to Manage Difficult Employees, Encourage Good Ones to Stay, and Boost Productivity” suggests to look for the red flags from the start and ask the candidate point blank why he/she had left their previous job. Sember warns of excuses like “They didn’t understand me” or “There was someone who had it in for me.”
- Focus on what can be done.When it comes to conflict resolution, “solution-focused” approach proved itself to be the most effective. Ask all parties to describe their perfect resolution scenarios. Define the steps necessary to realize these scenarios and then pick the ones that can satisfy everyone (or at least, cause the minimum hostility).
As a leader, it’s essential for you to learn from any conflict, big or small, so its lessons help you avoid such situations in the future. Analyze the root causesand adjust your management practices accordingly.For instance, for avoiding miscommunicationin terms of who’s responsible for what –simply keep project data logged into one piece ofproject tracking system where everyone can access it.
What kind of conflicts happened in your team and how did you handle them?