Magazine article Supervisory Management

When the Team Becomes Too Human

Magazine article Supervisory Management

When the Team Becomes Too Human

Article excerpt

It's often said that spouses who don't fight don't really love each other. You can use this logic when people on your team have trouble getting along--but it won't carry much weight in light of minor details like the bottom line.

Conflict is natural, common, and often necessary. But when minor disagreements turn into adversarial relationships, the entire fabric of the team is at risk. You may not be able to make people like each other, but you should at least help them to work with each other.

Easier Said Than Done

As a supervisor, you've dealt with conflicts before, and you know how distracting and disruptive they can be--to those involved, to other staffers, and to you. If the team is temporary, like a task force, resolving conflicts among members will likely be easier than resolving conflicts among staffers who work as a team. But in both instances, although you probably can't get two adversaries to agree to live happily ever after, you can take some steps that will make everyone's position easier.

1. Take the warring parties aside. Especially in a small group, it won't be hard to know when two people aren't getting along. There might be subtle cutting remarks, or there may be full-blown shouting matches. Your first goal is to get both fighters to know that they can trust you. Talk to each one individually and get both sides of the issue. Let them know that you value their contributions and that the team needs their continued support--that includes working with each other.

2. Don't be judgmental. Remember, your aim is to get everyone to work together. If you take sides, the message you send is "Don't cross me." It will harm whatever trust you've developed with the members of the team. If you chew out two adversaries without providing any other feedback, you might indeed get them to work together--they'll gang up on you. …

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