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February 24, 2012 / mike54martin

He Said… She Said

One of the hardest things to do as a manager is to keep the peace between two workplace combatants who are determined to shout each other into submission. In many cases you are reduced to being a referee and ensuring that innocent bystanders are kept out of the line of fire. But there are a few things you can do to reduce the overall damage.

Set Clear Ground Rules

You already probably have some form of personnel manual, code of conduct, or harassment policy that you can and should make people aware of. Harassment, bullying, yelling, screaming, insulting behaviours are not acceptable and if they are happening they will no longer be tolerated.

Let People Know Where to Go

They can come to you but if they choose not to then they should be encouraged to go to Human Resources or an ombudsperson if your organization has one. If they come to you let them know that you will be getting all sides of the story before you take any action.

Be Fair

All of the employees who work under you need to know that they will get a fair hearing if they have a complaint and fairness is one key to breaking down interpersonal conflicts. If everyone understands the rules and you apply them fairly then you have at least a shot at success.

Be Open

Another important element in reducing the impact of interpersonal conflict is to create an open atmosphere where communication and feedback flows freely between employees and their manager. Bullying and harassment cannot survive the scrutiny of the light and the more a manager can create this light the more likely that this type of behaviour will be moderated if not stopped.

Be Flexible

If one path doesn’t lead to success then you can try another. And there are many options. Counselling, advice and guidance from a coach or professional of their choice, mediation or some form of thirty-party process could also be tried out. Sometimes a few days of cooling off might be enough to find a solution.

Make a Decision

If it comes down to it then don’t be afraid to make a decision. Someone, maybe both of them will not like you for it, but that is your job as manager. And don’t just transfer the problem out of your area. Deal with it to the best of your ability. Too many people before you have tried to transfer their problems to someone else. That’s part of what caused this situation in the first place. Break the cycle and you will at least have a chance to breaking the pattern of interpersonal conflict.

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One Comment

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  1. Kitty Kilian / Feb 25 2012 7:41 am

    Interesting. It is hard enough in marriages to break the cycle at times – so how a bout relationships where there is much less at stake? Bosses are only too often a part of the problem, too, in my experience 😉

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