Team Conflict … your intervention!

Conflict InterpersonalIf you are a team leader, you may have to intervene in team conflicts. One of the thorniest situations is when the conflict has personal implications. These issues may include complaints about someone who is not doing their share of the work, someone else’s griping is causing a drop in morale, or some coworkers that can’t maintain a positive working relationship. The dilemma is that we have to decide if and when to intervene.

Interpersonal conflicts between team members can be difficult and may have a negative impact on productivity. Even worst is that unresolved conflicts can hurt team retention. There are several ways that we could approach this type of issue.

Here are a few suggestions that will be helpful.

1. Maintain Problem Focus – To the extent possible identify and focus on the issues at stake rather than the individuals that are involved. It may be prudent to ask each of the “combatants” to suggest one person to join the discussion and contribute to the solutions. Begin the discussion by describing your understanding of how the impact of the current situation affects the team and productivity. Try to refrain from citing rumors or hearsay. Let the group know the potential benefits to the team and your organization you envision when the problem is resolved. Conduct a brainstorming session to collect, organize and prioritize potential solutions.

2. Problem Solve – There is the possibility that others may view a given situation quite differently than you do. The first thing to do is to test your assumptions. One method is to as a number of open-ended questions to determine what possibilities manifest before proposing or considering possible solutions. Depending on the magnitude of the situation, don’t be reluctant to involve a trained facilitator or the appropriate person from the HR department.

3. Promote Effective Feedback – Consider using the template below to improve feedback from and to team members. Over time, you will help your team to learn how to give good feedback so they can express their concerns in a positive manner rather than letting them foment.

Here is a five (5) step template:
1. OPEN by identifying the situation and improvement opportunity.
2. STATE the results and impact of this behavior to establish importance.
3. SEEK information to determine other data and motivation.
4. DEVELOP ideas for improvement.
5. CLOSE by summarizing and confirming positive expectations.

This technique encourages everyone to ask questions, stay positive, describe how the situation makes them feel, and give specifics. Further, this will assure your team that feedback is welcomed and not punished. The objective is to make it easier for team members to raise concerns, and plan regular check-in meetings to discuss ongoing issues.

4. Roles – You should be aware that you may play many different roles, both formally and informally. These roles include teacher, bridge builder, mediator, arbiter, equalizer, healer, witness, referee, or peacekeeper. Although not everyone will recognize that you deployed skilled intervention techniques, they will recognize that you contributed to workplace harmony.

Finally, you can take great satisfaction in having confronted thorny issues that may have been impeding the progress, harmony and productivity of your team.

Related Articles:   Conflict Resolution … here’s how!   and   Listening … the internal obstacles!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Conflict Resolution, Performance Management, Professional Skills

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