Don’t Just Fix a Symptom When Resolving Conflict

No matter how great a team you have, conflicts are going to happen. When they occur, you should be ready to deal with them. One thing you need to be careful of when working to resolve conflict is to make sure you are dealing with the issue, not the symptom. Dealing with a symptom of a conflict won’t resolve it. The conflict will continue to simmer within your team until you deal with the real issue.

One mistake many leaders make is to address an issue with the team that is only occurring with one or two team members.

Here’s an example.

One team member is habitually late to work which causes another team member to have to pick up the slack. The team member who has to pick up the slack is totally frustrated and complaining to other team members. Everyone is taking sides. So the team leader decides to have a meeting with the entire team and remind everyone how important it is to get to work on time. He thinks the problem is solved.

Not hardly.

He just made it worse. Here’s the effect of the team leader’s actions along with steps that should be taken.

  • To begin with, the team member who is arriving late to work probably didn’t get the message that he is the one causing the problem. One on one feedback is required in this situation to find out what’s causing the member to arrive late. A workable solution should be defined that will help the team member and the team.
  • The team member who has been picking up the slack will feel slighted. The team leader needs to acknowledge the effort this team member has been making, thank him for helping the team be successful, and advise that he has addressed the issue.
  • The team leader should manage by walking around. (Yes, I know it’s a cliche but it works.) He should connect and talk with all team members — on a regular basis — so rumors, innuendo and divisiveness can be nipped in the bud.

You need to be a brave leader when it comes to dealing with the people issues. Sometimes that’s tough, but you will be better for it. What do you think?

Denise O'Berry

Denise O’Berry — aka the Team Doc — has been working with teams and team leadership in the public, non profit and private sectors for over twenty years. Follow her @askteamdoc.

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