Good vs. Good: Managing Conflict Between Reliable Employees

Michael Gallagher, .

Two people sitting across the table glaringConflict is easy to deal with; nothing could be easier. When you know one party is in the right and the other is in the wrong. When you know one party is reliable, truthful, and hardworking, and the other is not. But what happens when valuable employees are engaged in conflict? Whether it is over a specific project or they have clashing personalities, it can be tough to referee these matches. Rather than taking sides, talk solutions.

Managing conflict between two (or more) good employees tends to swing along the pendulum; it is either much easier, or it is much more difficult. The challenge for managers and supervisors is to avoid being seen as choosing sides as far as outcomes and solutions are concerned. This creates tension that will carry over into other projects, and one issue can turn into chronic conflict.

On the other hand, it can be easier if you are dealing with intelligent mature people who can sit down and work out a solution. The key is the maturity level of those involved. Why? These people can:

  • Identify the problem.
  • Adopt and adapt to changed circumstances and ideas.
  • Implement solutions.

Rather than coming to you with a problem you must “fix” or a matter you must adjudicate, these individuals are much more likely to accompany their complaint with solutions they believe will work. This gives you a starting point and indicates that the parties are ready to resolve the issue and get back to work.

Ideally, your job as a supervisor is to act as a zoning board; you want to review the permit applications, so to speak, see which solutions are viable, and give permission if necessary.

Workplace conflict happens; it is inevitable when your staff is full of humans. Encourage both parties to work towards solutions. The worst thing that you, and they, can do is nothing.

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Michael Gallagher

Mike Gallagher, President of Michael Gallagher Advisory, has spent the past 20 years helping small business owners and managers develop and implement strategic business plans, achieve sustainable, targeted growth and solve the problems that keep them up at night.