Communication & Alignment

Contending with Employee Conflict

Recently I spoke with a manager who said that despite his having a good team of employees, from time to time conflicts arise among some of them, and he is not quite sure if he is dealing with these situations appropriately.

It is not uncommon to have conflicts develop among employees – no matter how well they work together. However, if employee conflicts are not resolved fairly quickly, productivity may begin to erode. This is why you, as a manager, need to make sure that your employees are able to resolve their differences.

What would you do to handle employee conflicts? Take a few minutes to respond to the statements below and then compare your answers with my recommended responses.

Answer True or False :

_____  1. Jump in immediately when your employees are in a conflict situation.

_____  2.  Listen to each employee side of the story.

_____  3.  Avoid taking sides.

_____  4.  Determine how each employee’s personality played a role in the conflict.

_____  5.  Proceed knowing that there is usually only one good solution to an issue.

_____  6.  Devise a solution if the employees cannot resolve the conflict.

Recommended responses:

1. False. Give your employees a chance to resolve their problem before immediately jumping in. Letting them work out the conflict themselves helps them build skills for the future; it also can make them feel good about themselves. However, if it becomes clear that they are unable to work out their differences, then you need to step in before the conflict escalates.

2. True. It is essential to listen to what each of your employees has to say, so that you can determine what has occurred and what the real issues are. Since each of your employees will be explaining the situation from his or her own perspective, you need to listen carefully and ask questions to determine the facts.

3. True. You need to remain neutral. If you take sides, you will add to the problem, as well as risk losing your credibility.

4. False. Keep personalities out of it. Just focus on the issues involved. Conflicts usually arise from differences in opinions, interests, goals, etc., and those are the areas that you need to look at.

5. False. There are usually a number of optional solutions to any one situation. Have each employee work out several possible solutions that are doable. Assess your employees’ solutions and provide feedback as to their practicality. Then help your employees jointly work out a solution that they both can live with.

6. True. If your employees still are unable to resolve their conflict, then you need to step in and formulate a solution that is acceptable to both of them. You cannot afford to let the conflict continue too long, because it will adversely affect productivity as well as morale.

The final word: Encouraging your employees to resolve their own conflicts and supporting their viable solutions demonstrates that you respect them and have confidence in their ability to maturely and professionally work things out for themselves. Isn’t that what employees want from their managers – respect and confidence in their abilities?


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About:  John A. Page, LFHIMSS

John is an accomplished executive with impressive senior-level strategic management experience and success recognized industry-wide for contributions to healthcare information technology and management systems. Nationally respected on topics of social media, technology and strategic business alignment, he serves as a Vistage Chair and Host of CEOIntroNet TV Chicagoland as well as an advisor to Boards and business leaders.

Category: Communication & Alignment

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John Page About the Author: John A. Page, LFHIMSS

John is a highly accomplished executive with impressive strategic leadership experience and success.  He is known as a change agent with expertise in defining business strategies and translating them into high-impact actions, new business op…

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  1. I think that the most common problem of all is blaming the person when things go wrong. This is where it starts to get personal. I can think of two ways to avoid this. First, to implement the Agile process in team meetings and second, to implement a conflict resolution process within the organization. Thanks for sharing your tips and like you, I believe that harmony in the workplace begins with respect..

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