How do I manage conflict between employees?
What should I do when coworkers don't get along?
Should I intervene?
Bring them together?
What do I say?
In May, Ki Moments began a series of posts about The Manager as Mediator, designed to help managers and leaders address organizational and personality conflict involving coworkers, management, and leadership teams. Designed as a coaching intervention, the 5-step model offers a step-by-step process for developing skills in yourself and the people you support.
We started in May with an introduction to the 5 steps.
Today, we focus on Step #1: First Manage You.
Step #1: First Manage You
Your attitude toward what's happening in the conflict is important. Before you involve yourself, do a mental inventory. If you think it will go badly or well, you're right. If you enter the arena fearfully, scowling, and fumbling for words, you set yourself and your employees up for an unhappy outcome. They will catch your anxiety and interpret your scowl as a judgment. More than likely, they are already anxious, concerned and filled with judgment for themselves and the other person in the conflict.
Your job is to adopt and demonstrate confidence that the conflict is merely potential energy, whose outcome is as yet unknown.
While it is a conflict -- it is also an opportunity:
- For the relationship to change for the better.
- For the parties to learn valuable work and life skills
- To see their conflict partner's more positive aspects.
- To step into a leadership role as they model conflict competency in the organization.
Reframe the conflict. As we do in Aikido, see it as a gift of energy. What possibilities are present personally and professionally for each of the actors? How will resolution affect the larger team and the organization?
Helpful Practices and Attitudes For You as the Leader
Prepare by thinking ahead. See yourself embodying these attributes:
- Curiosity and Inquiry
- Adopting the belief that working through the issue will benefit everyone.
- Seeing yourself freeing stagnant energy for more purposeful uses.
- Appreciation for the energy and commitment involved on all sides.
Attitudes Detrimental to the Process
Unhelpful thoughts (and ways to reframe them):
- This is not my job. (This is exactly my job.)
- I don’t have the skills for this. (I can learn the skills and become a more effective, respected and responsible manager. I will increase trust, respect and productivity and enhance influence among my team.)
- They should just rise above it. (They’re doing their best with the skills they have. If they could make wiser choices, they would.)
- What’s wrong with these people?! (What do they need to help them through this.)
- They’re mean and hurtful. (They’re unskilled.)
- This will take too much time. (Whatever time the process takes will be less than the time that is lost in relationship discord and reduced productivity.)
Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Engage
- What is the purpose for the intervention? What do I really want--for each individual, for the relationship, for the organization?
- Am I part of the problem?
- What actions have I already taken that have helped or hindered?
- How can I find out?
- Am I truly objective or have I formed a conclusion?
- What is the best alternative to a successful resolution of the conflict?
Understand It as a Process
Understand this as a process of coaching, mediation, and resolution. It may take time, and your primary power is in the quality of your Being. Everything else is secondary. In this sense, you have more power than you think to help these people resolve their differences.