Sooner or later, unless you’re a brilliant manager or extremely lucky, you will get a situation where two members of your team have a disagreement. This may result in conflict and you have to do something about it.
Most conflicts occur because of a role conflict. It’s seldom these days that it’s a personality conflict where two people can’t stand to be in the same room with each other. So how do you deal with a situation that requires your input?
Get the two together in a room to discuss the issue. Have a positive mindset first, knowing that the disagreement CAN be resolved if you approach it in the right way.
You can start with “I’ve called you together because I have a problem and I need your help“. This is true because it is your problem and if it can’t be fixed, others in the team will be affected, and that won’t be tolerated.
State your concerns about the lack of co-operation between the two. Tell them how you are feeling, using high emotional intelligence wording. Something like, “I feel frustrated…” or “I feel a bit helpless here…” or “I feel disappointed…”. Make sure they know how it makes you feel. This may help them to start thinking about problem solving instead of blame-placing.
State what you actually see, their behaviour. No judgments. No blame. Just facts.
Ask for their help. “What do you think both of you could do now so I no longer have this problem?”
Facilitate the discussion. Concentrate on the future, which can be created, not the past, which can’t be changed.
Get them to agree an action plan. Focus on what can be done to resolve the issue, rather than what can’t. You need commitment for change from both parties. If they still want to maintain their status quo positions, ask what they now expect you to do about it. This will often help them identify the positive changes that need to be made and the benefits that will come from it.
Offer help, if that’s what’s needed.
Arrange a follow-up to measure the effectiveness of any actions they take.
End with something like “Thanks for agreeing to these actions. I’ll support you all the way. By the way, if any of these actions are not carried out, how would you like me to handle it?” This allows you to plan for the eventuality that none of you want, and you may have to be quite directive in what you do.
By planning the meeting as above, there’s a chance that the conflict can be managed by the two parties themselves without too much intervention from you. I’m sure that’s what you would really want, and your proactive actions may help you avoid any further conflict.