One of the sessions I attended at Agile 2014 by Tricia Broderick was on how managers can help team members resolve conflict themselves. She had some simple steps you can follow as a manager or leader so that you don’t have to mediate all conflict yourself. Try this out next time someone complains to you about a co-worker.
1. Ask the person with the complaint to go away and write down all the reasons they can think off that the person did the things that they did.
You can use this format if it’s helpful:
- What the person did
- How it impacted you
- Why the person did it
2. When they come back with a list of only negative things. Ask them to think again about any positive reasons the person might have behaved as they did.
3. Now ask them to pick the most likely reason they did it. Hopefully with some distance and perspective they will see that there could be a positive reason for doing something even if they were adversely impacted.
4. Now ask what they would like to do about it. Often people are now curious as to the real reason for someone’s actions, and as a result can now engage in a healthier conversation about it, often without your help as a mediator.
Note this process does not solve the conflict, but it sets up the complainer to think about the problem from different perspectives, and be more open to hear the other person.