Handling conflicts

If there is a conflict, you have to identify the type of conflict and find the appropriate way to address it. First and foremost, obtain regular feedback as it permits fine-tuning and adjustments with regard to the following factors:

  • Alignment to the principles and objectives of the organization.
  • Clarifying role issues.
  • Improving communications.
  • Tackling relationship problems early in the problem cycle.
  • Ensuring proper resource and people management.
  • Explaining why certain things should not happen.
  • Asking explanation why certain things happen.
  • Performance and/or non-performance.

Instead of avoiding office politics and people conflicts, identify the creator of these undercurrent, and handle the situation with enthusiasm, analysis, and integrity. If the conflict is between the team members you should do the following:

Step 1: Get to know the Facts

Don’t form your opinion of the situation without knowing the facts. You need to know the truth about the situation. What is important for one, may be of least importance to another. this variation of interest could be the root cause of conflict. Understanding their viewpoint of the situation will help you in understanding the underlying issues, and hence in making appropriate decision.

Step 2: Listen to Both Sides

Each individual involved in the conflict will have their side of the story. Something may be important to one person where as it may be insignificant to the other. When more than two or more persons are involved, talk to each one of them separately about their problem. Having a clear picture of the entire situation will give you a good idea about how you should deal with the conflict.

    1. Meet with each team member separately.
    2. Listen to their side or version of the story. Be patient and give your total time and attention to what they have to say.
    3. If the team members blame or accuse the other, allow them to do it to an extent, specially to let the venom come out of them. You should take care not to blame or voice negative opinion about the other persons involved.
    4. After listening to their views and problems, ask them questions so that you understand the situation even better.
    5. Don’t stop them when they are talking. Else they will get the feeling that you are not interested in their problem.
    6.  If the problem is of a bigger magnitude, ensure to have a senior member of the team or the HR personal with you.

Step 3: Have a Combined Meeting

Have a combined meeting with the individuals having the conflicts. During the meeting ensure to follow some guidelines to get a positive outcome.

    • Make it clear that you are trying to help them resolve the issue—the conflict has to be solved by them, not by you. You are just being a mediator.
    • Point out gently that it requires some degree of maturity to be reasonable and come to a solution acceptable by both.
    • Tell them to discuss what they think the issue is, not want the problem is with the other person.
    • Ensure to the people involved that you are NOT taking sides, but trying to help them solve the problem.
    • Don’t blame either person. Never make a statement like, “You should not have done this” in front of the other person. You may talk about the unacceptable actions during the personal discussion with the individuals. That is the time to talk about the problem and issues.
    • Ask them to tell you the reason of the conflict and how it all started. Often at this point, most of them may realize that the issues they are talking about are not the real problem or that they probably misunderstood the other. But this often depends on the type of conflict, maturity level, and attitude of the individuals.
    • Let them talk, but do not let them argue. You need to be in charge, of the situation. Do not let their anger or frustration take over.
    • Put forward what you understood about each side and ask them if they agree with your observation.
    • Discuss which part of the conflict was wrong, why it was wrong, and how it has effected the teams productivity.
    • Discuss the alternatives and mutually acceptable solutions.
    • Do not try to force an agreement that either person is unhappy with and do not let either of them walk away from the meeting unsatisfied.
    • If you don’t reach to an agreement, disperse, and then continue with the discussion later.
    • After winding up, it is a good idea to go for a lunch or tea together to ease up the tension.

Step 4: Establish Unacceptable Behaviors

To avoid the problems to some extent, establish unacceptable team behaviors and share them with the team members. Some of these behaviors could be:

  • Unwillingness to work with the rest of the team in harmony.
    (No to: I shall work on my own.)
  • Refusing to set aside personal requirements or agendas.
    (No to: I shall do only this task, not that.)
  • Showing a strong preference to be the star, rather than be a part of the process along with the team.
    (No to: I shall do only the tasks or projects that will put me in the limelight.)
  • Performing tasks or activities without informing anyone.
    (No to: secrecy.)
  • Expecting team members to help them out whenever they are in need, without first checking out the deadlines, priorities, and availability of the team member.
    (No to: I shall do things at my own pace. The others will help if I ask them to.)
  • Wasting time the entire working day and then:
    • Expecting the team members to stay back and help out.
    • Work late hours and speak about how late they stay to complete the work.
    • Missing deadlines.
    • Completing work in a hurry which causes problems in quality.

 (No to: I shall do things at my own pace and the way I want to do the work. The others will have to help me out if the project has to be completed on time.)

  • Resenting feedback, especially if it is about improvement.
  • Stealing ideas or credits. If someone borrows ideas from the team members, ensure to give them the appropriate credit.
    • If a team member suggests that a writer could add an appendix on troubleshooting tips, the writer should not send out a mail stating, “I feel that adding a section or appendix on trouble shooting tips will improve the usability of the document.”
    • If a team member helps a writer with format conversions and production testing, the writer should not send a mail to the project team stating, “I have performed the conversions and fixed all the errors.”





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