When Should You Get Involved in a Team Conflict?

123RF Stock Photo
123RF Stock Photo

Should you step up or sit on the sidelines when personal conflicts flare and affect your group’s effectiveness?

As a leader, you’ll look for ways to settle the issue before the two warring factions sink all ships.

  • Ask for an invitation to help. For the most part, people don’t like others to intervene without permission. But if they seem incapable of coming to resolution, mention that you’ve noticed a difficulty or issue and then give them a choice with a question: “Do you think you can solve this matter by X date/X situation before we need to present this to our client, or do you need an objective outsider to help?”
  • Refuse to “take sides.” Make it clear that you intend to work with both people. Point out that you may speak with them separately, and be upfront about the fact that you will pass along what each tells you to give the other person a chance to clarify any misconceptions.
  • Pass along compliments and complaints between them. Sharing positive remarks adds credence to any negative comments. Your goal is to help each person see the merits in the other’s viewpoint.
  • Point out miscommunications and misperceptions. Your key task will be to identify and point out wrong information, invalid assumptions, misjudged intentions, and inappropriate or incorrect conclusions. When things stall, remind both people of common goals. Ask each to suggest their own solutions to the situation — without injecting your own agenda.
  • Create opportunities to keep the lines of communication open. Look for ways to have them interact positively with each other on occasion for short durations. You’ll be seen as the pivotal person who can hold sparring factions together to complete important work.

While few people like to deal with conflict of their own — much less take on conflict between coworkers or staff — leaders know that’s simply part of the path to success.

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This was originally published on Dianna Booher’s Booher Banter blog.

Dianna Booher is the bestselling author of 47 books, published in 60 foreign language editions. She works with organizations to help them communicate clearly and with leaders to expand their influence by a strong executive presence. Her personal development topics include leadership communication, executive presence, life balance, and faith. Her most popular books include What MORE Can I Say?, Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader and Communicate With Confidence. Look for her newest book in June 2017: Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire, and Get Things Done. National media such as Good Morning America, USAToday, The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Bloomberg, Forbes.com, Fast Company, FOX, CNN, NPR, Success, and Entrepreneur have interviewed her for opinions on critical workplace communication issues. www.BooherResearch.com  817-283-2333  @DiannaBooher


1 Comment on “When Should You Get Involved in a Team Conflict?

  1. Resolving conflict within a team is certainly very important, but I wholeheartedly exhort those who would step in as a mediator to tread very lightly. It’s so easy to get caught up on one side or the other that it may actually be best if someone outside the team can be tapped to help. We venture into these situations with the very best of intentions, but too many of us have our ‘things’ (love of the underdog, sob stories, etc.) that can pull us out of objective mode without our awareness. And a lack of objectivity means our judgement is biased in someone’s favor, whether or not it’s deserved. The best mediator is someone who has no personal investment or involvement with either party, regardless of good intentions.
    Cheers! Lisa Chatroop, Good.Co

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