One of the more challenging (and least pleasant) aspects of management is dealing with interpersonal conflicts. Whether it’s internal squabbles among team members or challenges between staff and clients, you end up in the role as referee and arbiter of encounters.
These situations are particularly difficult because often they boil down to one person’s word against another, the classic “he said, she said” dynamic. You’re put in the position to sift through truths, lies, embellishments, irrelevancies, and a lot of drama.
What’s a leader to do? First, it’s important to hear the complaint or concern as close to the actual event as possible. The more time that passes, the more the scenario can be embellished.
Second, take good notes. Don’t rely on your memory because when the situation rears its ugly head (and it always seems to when you least expect it), you want to refresh your memory with something other than your memory.
Third, stay neutral. Be an active listener and ask clarifying questions. Approach the conversation from a balanced, not biased, point of view.
Next, commit to one or more deliverables and make sure you follow up on these immediately. Taking action (especially after something has festered for a while) changes the vibe of lingering dissatisfaction and shows your commitment to resolve the issue.
Finally, stay tuned in to what’s going on with your employees. The more you’re aware, the fewer surprises will cross your desk. Yes, some of these situations may be petty and ridiculous, but you want to be in the position to head off the more serious ones before they fester.
Have a great day!