When should a manager intervene in conflicts between employees?
Olga Gritsenko describes the most popular conflict patterns within the work team and explains in which cases the leader should intervene and “break the parties”, and in which cases this is not necessary
Conflicts between employees are a normal part of the work process. Usually they do not require the intervention of a manager. If there are no conflicts at all – this is suspicious, because the conflict arises from the conflict of interests of employees when they are ill for the cause.In my experience, the leader should intervene in several cases:
Conflicts on the same topic
As a rule, these are conflicts laid down by the system. I ran a company where every new director clashed with the chief accountant. Glavbukh worked in the company from the foundation, survived 6 directors. Formally, he was subordinate to the director, but was a trustee of shareholders and, as it were, looked after the company.
The chief accountant shared his doubts about the decisions of the director immediately with the shareholders. Shareholders immediately called the director with ambiguous questions. This annoyed and raised questions about why the chief accountant crawls, for example, in matters of customer relations. The situation suited the shareholders – the average term of the director was two years and they, without reason, trusted the accountant with whom they worked for 15 years more. Each of the directors resolved the conflict in their own way – some by cunning, some by force, some who humble themselves.
A more positive example. The cleaning ladies at the hotel worked 12-hour shifts. Twice a day, their leader manually set tasks for each shift and twice a day listened to complaints that the previous shift left the tails next and was generally cool.
The solution was elegant. The manager once compiled a calendar of all the work for the year ahead – the list is long but finite. Evenly distributed them throughout the year and between shifts. Now in the morning, the manager simply printed out a ready-made list of tasks for each shift (this could also be done by his deputy or senior maid). The cleaners at the end of the shift noted what work was done and the next shift saw what was specifically done, sometimes they checked the quality (the manager received an additional control tool). The cleaners tried to solve all the problems during the shift, so that the next shift would not be tempted to leave them their imperfections. The conflict has been settled.
The problems posed by the system cannot always be solved by one regulation. In this case, it makes sense for the leader to act as a mediator until a solution is found so that the business conflict does not turn into a psychological, into personal hostility.
Conflicts between the same employees
The procurement manager and assistant must work in tandem, tasks are clearly distributed. In the professional plan, the leader has no questions for them, if they set tasks separately, they do an excellent job. But together they won’t work together. With a detailed analysis of conflicts – face-to-face or on a face-to-face basis, they cannot formulate any specific claims to each other, it all comes down to “said the wrong way,” “looked wrong.” After about 4 months, the head transferred the assistant to another unit, where he successfully worked for several years. Even when the passions subsided, the cause of the conflict could not be established.
Sometimes employees themselves cannot understand what annoys them so much in each other. Maybe a colleague in the subconscious mind reminded the man whom the ex-wife had gone to, and that’s it. If you could not find out the essence of the conflict, you need to stop psychoanalysis in time and find an opportunity to separate people from direct interaction.
Inappropriate behavior of adequate employees
I managed the federal retail network, part of the interviews I conducted remotely via Skype. I see a nice girl on the other side of the screen: a neat hairstyle, makeup, good speech. She goes to work, employees exhale with relief – the staff is staffed, you can plan vacations.
After a couple of weeks, I take an assortment exam from a trainee – she passed, she is satisfied with her work, and is ready to continue. But the senior seller answers evasive questions about the success of the girl with the buyers. Previously slurred him was not observed.
I decide to give the trainee more time to get comfortable. We return with the senior seller to the topic of the new employee, he also mumbles – “not really our man.”
It turned out that all this time the senior seller was picking up words to explain the ridiculous situation. Despite the neatness of the picture on Skype, the trainee revealed serious problems with hygiene. The girl was simply not allowed to the buyers – because of the smell of the homeless. They themselves somehow endured, but patience snapped when at the opening of the store they found a glass of soda full of urine on the floor of the store. I’ll miss the details, but the intern decided that she had to go far to the office toilet in the shopping center and forgot to pick up the glass after the store closed.
If you know that the employee is an adequate person, always looking for a way to agree and just won’t go to a conflict, it’s important not to dismiss even the single signals that he gives.