Published in Forbes:
Within any team, there will be moments of strife that a manager has to deal with. People who work closely with each other might not have the same ideas or opinions, and occasionally these come to the surface and lead to disagreements.
Behaviors like this are not conducive to getting work done, and it generally falls to the manager of the group to sort out the issue and ensure that personal opinions don’t get in the way of the job. So how does a manager approach a situation like that without alienating their team members?
We asked 12 professionals from Forbes Human Resources Council to share some techniques that could help a manager smooth over strife within a team to keep spirits (and productivity) at its peak. Here’s what they recommend.
1. Ensure Transparent Conversation
I think that a manager could mediate the conversation by allowing the parties involved to both speak freely and truly about what their issues are. It creates an environment where people can be open, honest and transparent when it comes to communication. The manager, in my opinion, is only there to mediate if things get out of control, parties are not respectful and/or just can’t resolve the issue at all. – RaQuel Hopkins, DHI Telecom Group
2. Use The Right Verbiage
Use language that is truly meant to help all parties understand what is being felt on both ends. Phrases that begin with, “What I hear you saying is…” and “It appears you are feeling…” are good to use while mediating a situation. They help those involved express themselves on both a professional and personal level, which ultimately can lead to a positive resolution and a sense of closure. – Laura Spawn, Virtual Vocations, Inc.Forbes Human Resources Council is an invitation-only organization for HR executives across all industries. Do I qualify?
3. Give Them Uninterrupted Time To Explain
Give each team member the opportunity to share their perspective without interruptions for five minutes, and then give the other side the opportunity to do the same. Oftentimes, getting what’s on their minds out in the open can help start a path toward rebuilding. – Rachel Lyubovitzky, EverythingBenefits
4. Listen To Both Sides And Stay Impartial
When disagreements arise, managers should consider each employee’s point of view and do their best to stay impartial. Though settling the disagreement may require siding with one employee over the other, the worst thing a manager can do is show favoritism. After deciding what’s best for each individual and the team, managers should clearly explain to both employees the reason for their decision. – John Feldmann, Insperity
5. Take Steps To De-Escalate
Disagreements are inevitable but simple actions can reduce animosity. Leaders should ensure the parties air their grievances to one another rather than enabling the parties to avoid speaking with one another. They should also actively discourage counterproductive body language such as lack of eye contact, arms crossed, aggressive gesturing or invasion of personal space. – Teresa Martins, Madison Logic
6. Set A Tone Of Respect
It is healthy to disagree — the issue is always how we set the parameters around the disagreements. As a line manager, it is up to you to set a tone of respect and candor upfront around how we disagree and always focus on finding the best solution rather than taking it personally. This way, your staff understands that it’s OK to have disagreements, as long as the focus is on how to solve them. – Tasniem Titus, Dentsply Sirona
7. Assume Positive Intent
People typically don’t set out to make work more difficult for a co-worker or to make someone’s day more challenging. Reminding employees to not make negative assumptions, but to assume that the other person is trying their best and not intending to be difficult can help set the stage for a forward-looking and resolution-focused conversation. – Gwyn Purdue, Wafra Inc.
8. Keep The Conversation Solutions-Focused
Conflict is never ideal, but it can lead to healthy outcomes if handled correctly. The key thing to remember is to keep the conversation solutions-focused. Don’t let either employee talk negatively about the other person, but have them talk about the problem and offer possible solutions. You also have to get both sides to commit to finding a solution or there is no way to find a common ground. – Kelly Loudermilk, BuildHR, Inc.
9. Enlist The Team
Ensuring work gets done is only part of a manager’s job. Team building is important, as it fosters collaborative relationships among individuals and drives productivity. This is often best done in an offsite meeting, which the manager facilitates by allowing their people to talk about “elephants” in the room, while allowing members of the team to support the conversation — and each other. – Tracy Cote, Genesys
10. Ask Fact-Related Questions
Asking the right questions can help members involved in a disagreement come to their own conclusions. Ask questions related to the facts, not the feelings associated with the conflict or disagreement. “What have you tried to address the situation?” or “What do you ultimately want from this situation?” To be effective, don’t give the answers; ask questions so the parties come up with their own. – Steve Lowisz, Qualigence International/Lowisz Consulting
11. Create Win-Win Scenarios
Conflict typically occurs around three areas: goals, roles and responsibilities. When it comes to goals, are they conflicting or overlapping? Does each person have a goal? Are there conflicting timing, measures, and/or perceptions of achievability? If so, then adjust the goals to create win-win scenarios to help resolve the conflict. Use the same thinking to examine roles and responsibilities. – Phyllis Wright, Ph.D., VRM Mortgage Services
12. Avoid Mediating Disputes Wherever Possible
It is easy to step in and be the person that sorts out a dispute and placates employees. This rarely fixes the underlying issue or feelings of resentment. As far as possible, avoid mediating a dispute and encourage the people involved to discuss the issue between them, finding their own solution. Even if this solution isn’t your preferred one, it has a more positive, lasting effect. – Karla Reffold, BeecherMadden