How to Handle a Disagreement on Your Team

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How to Handle a Disagreement on Your Team

When a disagreement erupts between two people on your team, it might be tempting to jump in and impose a decision on them. Therefore, it’s better as a manager to rely on your mediation skills, not your authority. The first step of playing the role of mediator is to understand both of their positions – what one is claiming and the other rejecting, and their interests – why they are making and rejecting the claims. You can do this in a joint meeting with both parties or in separate meetings. decide whether to initially meet with the parties together or separately. Both approaches have pros and cons. The goal of the initial meeting is to have them leave with emotions abated and feeling respected by you, if not yet by each other. With that done, you then want to focus on getting their positions, interests, and priorities out on the table. Throughout the process encourage them to take responsibility for moving toward an agreement. If all of your efforts fail to produce a settlement, you may need to shed your mediator role and, as the boss, impose an outcome that is in the best interests of the organization.

When you manage a team of people, you can’t always ensure that they’ll get along. Given competing interests, needs, and agendas, you might even have two people who vehemently disagree. What’s your role as the boss in a situation like this? Should you get involved or leave them to solve their own problems?

Ideally, you’ll be able to coach your colleagues to talk to each other and resolve their conflict without involving you, making clear that their disagreement is harmful to them and the organization. But that’s not always possible. In these situations, we believe it’s important to intervene, not as a boss but as a mediator. To be sure, you won’t be a neutral, independent mediator since you have some stake in the outcome but you’re likely to be more effective in meeting everybody’s interests – yours, theirs, and the organization’s – if you use your mediation skills rather than your authority.

Why rely on mediation and not your authority? Your colleagues are more likely to own the decision and follow through with it if they’re involved in making it. If you dictate what they should do, they will have learned nothing about resolving conflict themselves.

Of course, there will be times when you’ll have to put aside your mediator role and ple if major departmental or company policy issues are involved, there is imminent danger, or all other avenues have failed to resolve the conflict, but those occasions are few and far between.

While this may certainly be the fastest (and possibly least painful) way to a resolution, it won’t help your team members figure out how to resolve conflicts on their own

What if your colleagues expect you to step in as the boss? Your first move is to recognize your authority, but explain the mediation process you have in mind. You might tell your colleagues that although you have the authority to impose an outcome on them, you hope that, together you can find a resolution that works for everyone. You could also tell them that when the three of you are together, they should devote their energy to reaching agreement, rather than trying to persuade you which of their views should prevail.

Rather, they will have become more dependent on you to figure out their disputes for them

Should you initially meet with each colleague separately or jointly? There are pros and cons to both approaches. The goal is to understand both of their positions (what one is claiming and the other rejecting) and their interests (why they are making and rejecting the claims).

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