Conflict happens in all corners of the workplace. Disputes between employees are common and inevitable. The difficult decision is when to step in, says Joseph F. Byrnes, professor of management at Bentley College’s Graduate School in Waltham, Mass. “Give the warring parties a chance to resolve it on their own,” he says. “The time to take action is when things get out of hand, and the problems are affecting their work or disrupting other people’s work.”
Find out if the conflict is work-related and has a structural root, or whether it’s interpersonal and has no relationship to the job, Byrnes advises. An interpersonal conflict can happen on or off the job, whereas structural ones are inevitable in many organizations.
A Manager's approach should be in resolving the situation without offending or alienating either group. “Uppermost is not being seduced by the politics of one group over another,” says clinical psychologist William Knaus.
When politics get in the way, it’s time to step in cautiously. “You don’t want your boss to think that your division is riddled with divisive disputes,” Knaus says. “Your credibility is on the line if you can’t right the situation.”
Easing tensions between warring factions isn’t easy.
“A bad move on the manager’s part could create irreparable barriers, decrease productivity, as well as dampen morale,” Knaus says. “The situation must be carefully managed so that you’re not taking sides.”
A Manager's goal is to keep everyone focused on solving a problem and not be sidetracked by personal or political issues.
Following steps will help in resolving workplace conflict
- One can't begin to solve someone's problem until one understands them completely- which means, understanding their motivations. Which is why, in fact, good people management can be a lot more like psychoanalysis than you'd think.
- Let people tell their story - When people are deeply upset about something, they need to get their story out. This is a basic principle of mediation and one that’s important to remember. Allowing people to speak their minds can increase the level of conflict with which you must deal. You have to get through the conflict phase to find the solution.
- Bring a reality check to the table - Often in a conflict, the parties are so focused on minutiae that they lose sight of the big picture and its implications. As the mediator, you need to bring people back to reality by wrenching their attention away from the grain of sand and having them focus on the whole beach. Doing so may help resolution arrive at a startling speed.
- Identify the true impediment - In every conflict, ask yourself: What is the true motivating factor here? What is really keeping this person from agreeing to a solution?
- Meet with his peers and former managers.
- Have a conversation that tries to get to the heart of what his human/emotional problems are. Is he immature? Just generally unintelligent? Unhappy? Depressed? Insecure? Arrogant? Emotionally unintelligent? All of those are different diagnoses for the real cause of the problem and all of them have different prescriptions.
- Talk to him personally and privately, at length. Let him do most of the talking. Ask open questions. A good one is "How did that make you feel?" It uncovers a surprising amount of stuff. You would be shocked to learn how much better I got at managing human beings when I learned to ask people "How did that make you feel?"
- Form a hypothesis of the root causes of his issues. Pick a course of action based on what you think the core problem is.
- It may work. It may not. If it doesn't, that's too bad, but life is too short, and you're not paid to solve his problems, only the company's problems, so follow whatever advice you see elsewhere in this thread to get rid of him.
- Be sure to keep impeccable documentation.
- Avoid backing down as this boost in losing all credibility and authority with not only the problematic employee, but the rest of the team as well
- Don't consider him differently than the other team members. One of the biggest mistake is to consider him differently. This works particularly well with arrogant developers.
- When he makes you feel uncomfortable, angry, anxious, excited, remember that every thought you will have at that time will be biased by the emotion. It's better to wait for the emotion to disappear before analyzing and making decisions.
- When a conflict arises, try to take him in a face 2 face meeting. Don't do anything in front of the team.
- Listen to him actively, by asking many questions. Seek to understand him before trying to be understood.
- Ensure that decisions are made by the team with him included. His opinion should be as important as other team members opinion.
- When you are wrong, accept it. Sometimes, he will be right, like anybody.
- Be genuinely interested by him -This usually unlocks difficult people. He must understand that you are not a threat, but an ally.