Personality conflict isn’t the only reason workers fight among themselves. They also fight hoping for your approval — to get favored treatment from you.
Either way — whatever the cause — rivalries among employees hinder your workplace morale and productivity.
This is a particularly difficult situation for new managers. All too often they stumble in their efforts to be even-handed in criticizing and commending employees.
Why? Such actions often aren’t 100 percent objective and level-headed.
The competition among bickering employees doesn’t result in high performance.
No workers can perform at their best when full of fear or anger.
Worse, the acrimony spreads throughout the workplace and disrupts the team.
Usually, harmony is also lost as team members take sides in the rivalries.
Even if you’re at the top of your game as a manager, you’ll probably feel like a kindergarten teacher supervising quarreling children. But you’ll have to sort things out and act like an adult and treat them as adults.
Research best practices for workplace conflict resolution and implement. If necessary, utilize the services of an outside participant. You might need a consultant.
You’ll need to learn how to be astute, objective and precise.
Typically, here are the needed steps:
1. Assess your abilities to stay objective. You need to know how your attitude and behavior affect the situation and how you’re perceived — whether intentional or not.
Change whatever is needed in you for you to solve the issue.
2. Observe what’s really happening between the dueling employees. Document everything. Take note of their attitudes and their body language. Look for catalysts of behavioral change.
Literally, take notes. That means looking for symptoms whether it’s arguing, harassment, intimidation, snooping, tattle-telling or water-cooler gossip. Start managing the situation.
3. To use a sports term, stay within yourself. You can’t be spending a disproportionate amount of time being a kindergarten teacher. Know your limitations.
So start developing a plan of action. All the while, keep your objective in mind. Depending on the level of bickering, you have a couple of options — an individual chat with each worker or a conflict-resolution meeting.
You’ll have to decide — is the problem likely to go away or is it a spreading, contagious disease?
4. Strive for impartiality. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’ll be accused of favoritism. By documenting the problem and reviewing your notes, you’ll be in a better position to decide on the course of action.
Make all decisions on an individual basis. If one or both of the employees whine, don’t give away your dignity. Tell the workers they aren’t aware of all the facts, and don’t get mired in an unproductive argument in defending your decisions.
Always stay calm — unemotional.
5. Consider separating the workers. Naturally, the welfare of your organization is your chief concern. Often, such personalities are too strong and dysfunctional.
Short of terminations, don’t be surprised if one of your options is to separate the employees geographically in your company — if you can. In small operations, it isn’t possible.
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“Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”