Manage Conflict Before It Erupts

Sections of this topic

    “I’m at my wits end with one of my people regarding fill out reports in a consistent way. I’ve tried to be understanding and nice but it’s not working. I fear that I may explode the next time it happens.”

    Not dealing directly with the performance problem is common response. Many managers struggle with their reluctance to deal with an employee regarding poor performance or inappropriate behavior. In Nip Performance Problems in the Bud I give these reasons for this reluctance.

    • “I don’t want to rock the boat, especially when the employee is performing the function even if not up to expectations.”
    • “Correcting an employee’s performance or behavior might spark a decision to leave. Then where will I be…no one to do the job.”
    • “I’m concerned they’ll become defensive or even explode. I don’t know how to handle conflict. ”

    Conflict Is Like An Iceberg

    Above the water line are symptoms – averted eyes, people ‘claming up’, or work not getting done. Below the water line are the real or root causes – the expectations, problems and annoyances that are often not communicated. Remember conflict is not good or bad, it’s how you handle it that’s important.

    So, the first step is to identify what might be going on. Does the person, for example, not know how to fill out the reports – this is a training issue; doesn’t want to do it – this is a motivation issue; or doesn’t have the right tools – this is a resource issue? You can determine this by observing the person filling out the reports and asking specific questions regarding how the person is doing the work.

    Then, set up a problem solving meeting to focus on the performance, not the person. Here is a six-step approach:

    1. Indicate your desire to seek an outcome that will be best for both sides and the organization.
    2. Define the problem from your point of view. Be specific in describing the situation (who, what, where, when), the behaviors displayed, and the impact the behavior had.
    3. Ask the direct report to define the problem from his or her point of view. Then find common ground by identifying issues on which you agree.
    4. Identify and evaluate potential solutions. Consider unusual or creative options. Choose a solution each of you can accept.
    5. Develop an action plan for implementation. Define the behaviors and results you expect to see. Find out how he or she sees the work going forward.
    6. Plan follow-up meetings to check on progress. Both formal feedback sessions and general conversation will help you and the direct report stay on track.

    Management Success Tip:

    As a manager, it is your job to make sure work gets done right and in a timely manner. What happens when someone is not meeting the standards or expectations? The problems will continue and will soon affect others. Now you have a bigger headache. Deadlines are missed; Customer satisfaction goes down. Resources are squandered. And you’re working harder and longer. It’s time to STOP procrastinating and START dealing with the problem NOW. Also See Employee Coaching How to Make It Work and Performance Management: How To Do It Right

    Do you want to develop your Management Smarts?