This is not what you bargained for when you started managing people, is it?
I mean, you're dealing with professionals aren't you? You know, adults?
So why are you being expected to get solve every single personality clash?
Well, it may not seem right, but managing conflict in the workplace comes with the territory of managing people.
You are, after all, managing people.
So what do you do when staff don't get along?
Well, firstly, don't assume that it's your responsibility to make sure everyone gets along.
Yes, you read that correctly. You do not have to shoulder everyone else's problems!
If one of your team members has a problem with someone else, it's her problem...
Unless it's having a substantial, negative impact on your team's results.
Which may well be the case... leaving you with two choices:
1. Identify the cause of the dispute and encourage them to resolve their differences, or
2. Forget about trying to find out "why", and simply get them as far away from each other as possible!
I like the second approach for its simplicity. After all, you're a manager -- not a counselor!
So if you can restructure the work so that neither person has to deal with the other very often or at all, then you may be able to solve the problem without getting involved in the dispute.
However, this approach may not work if the conflict is more than just a work-related dispute. If it's more like a "personal vendetta" -- where the two people in question are likely to go out of their way to hinder each other -- then restructuring the work won't help.
Also, in many cases, you can't separate people! You might need them to work together, or at least to have them co-exist in a small work environment.
In this case, I suggest you identify the cause of the dispute, if only to work out whether you can fix it or not.
So... is the dispute due to:
-- Some kind of misunderstanding
-- Professional differences
-- Contrasting values, attitudes or beliefs, or
-- A "wrong" that one of the parties has somehow inflicted on the other?
If the conflict is due to a genuine misunderstanding, you may be able to clear it up to everyone's satisfaction.
You may also have a chance at fixing the problem if it's due to professional differences.
For example, if two people simply work differently, you may be able to make small -- but significant changes -- to how the work is done to minimize the chance of conflict.
I mean, if you have someone who loves coming up with big ideas and someone who's naturally critical -- it's probably best not to invite them both to a brainstorming workshop!
Instead, let the big ideas person do the brainstorming, and then after he or she has finished, invite the critic to voice his or her concerns.
However, if there are fundamental differences in values, attitudes or beliefs -- or some kind of
irrevocable "wrong" has been committed -- all your efforts may be in vain.
In that case, it's time to get tough. The fact is, if the conflict is negatively impacting on your team, then you need to get rid of one or both of the people responsible.
Just make sure you don't do this without warning them -- in fact, a warning may be what you need to force them to cooperate -- and make sure you comply with all legal, corporate policy and ethical considerations.
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Anna Johnson is the author of the How To Manage People System, including her book, How To Manage People (Even If You're A Control Freak!). Get Anna's FREE 12-page report How To Be An Outstanding Manager - The 8 Vital Keys To Managing People Effectively
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