Good Question: What is the most effective approach to resolving conflict between two employees on a team

Q:

“In my department, I have a manager and her direct report who are really at odds with each other on a project. People have dropped by my office to tell me that their frustration with each other is really causing challenges during larger project review meetings. What is the best way to approach and resolve this issue?


 

OUR EXPERT: 

Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.

 

A:

There are many ways that leaders address this issue—unfortunately, they often don’t lead to the best result. Here are a few common approaches that leaders take, and their pitfalls:

Speak to the manager and delegate getting the issue resolved. The challenge with this approach is that it does not address what leadership issues the manager may have. Sometimes, the manager may lack the skills to effectively engage the employee. Delegating the issue to a manager without the ability to properly address the issue can lead to high turnover and the loss of some great talent before the gap in the manager’s skills surfaces as the cause.

Decide that the manager needs training. Many times, when a conflict arises, leaders quickly resort to communications or leadership training. Training creates many great benefits, but it often uses generalizations, which may not help that manager become more effective at resolving a very specific type of employee issue.

Speak with numerous team members to gather information about the current issues, and then create a plan to resolve them. This approach can require hours of a leader’s time, taking them away from numerous other important and more strategic activities. It also creates a culture in which a disagreement gets put under a microscopic lens and can be overanalyzed if not careful.

Defer the issue to human resources. Bringing in your counterparts in human resources can definitely help to resolve employee issues. The caveat: if leaders regularly delegate issue resolution to another department without feeling fully engaged or accountable to improve the situation, the efforts made may only result in a short-term improvement.

What’s an effective approach that generates a positive outcome?

Teaching leaders to facilitate a single yet powerful conversation between two individuals in conflict. It is a priceless skill, and when leaders are involved in the conversation they grow further insight into the people, management, and business issues that exist within their team. In addition, this approach saves hours of time in individual conversations and encourages a culture in which people address and resolve challenges head-on.

 

Follow these four simple steps to lead a conversation that resolves conflict between two individuals:

 

STEP 1: State the reason for the conversation.

It’s important to highlight that the end goal of the meeting is to create a more harmonious working relationship between the two individuals. Many times, individuals feel the purpose of the meeting is to find out who is at fault for the conflict. Finding fault is far less productive and brings out the more defensive feelings in each individual.

 

STEP 2: Ask each individual to take ten minutes and explain their thoughts around the conflict.

It’s very important that there are no interruptions, and that the other party listens with curiosity and not reaction. This step is critical!

 

STEP 3: Ask each party how they feel they could work together more harmoniously in the future.

Instead of having them focus on past conversations that were tense and unproductive, encourage both parties to talk through how future situations could be more effective. Encourage discussion around how things could be different than they are today as opposed to focusing on finding faults.

 

STEP 4: Create agreements.

Ask each party to agree to a future behaviour change. Many times, once two people have talked through a conflict, they assume that the other person will change in the future. This simply sets the stage for more conflict. If each party can highlight and take ownership of what they can contribute to improving the situation, many times both individuals will feel more collaborative in their future work together.

 

As leaders, how we resolve conflict between individuals is one of the most important things we do to influence the culture of our teams.

 

 

To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented women professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at claperriere@womenofinlfuence.ca.

 

No one ever got ahead by being a wallflower

 

By Rebecca Heaton

 

 


 

 

Being assertive in a professional setting isn’t always easy, and you’re not alone if you feel like you’re often not being heard. This is especially true for women who may find themselves to be silent observers in other words, wallflowers. To them, I would ask: Are you using muscular language (active words and authoritative statements) or are you downplaying your authority? Are you being a discussion leader? If not, it’s time to embrace your inner boss lady, whether the world is ready for her or not.

 

Come to the table, and have something to say when you do

As a young woman starting out in her career, I began where many of us begin: at an internship. I was lucky enough to land an internship at Women of Influence, where I could develop my skills and personal communication goals in an environment where I was committed to the cause and loved the people. It’s a place where I felt valued and confident. It was a place where I could be loud. While I am happy more women are going to university and coming to the table, I can’t help but notice that young women don’t feel very confident verbally asserting themselves. What’s the point of being at the table if you’re going to be a silent observer? There are many ways women can advance themselves. Why not start by speaking up? Even if you get shot down, at least people know you’re in the room.  

 

Don’t be afraid to take up space

Once you’re at the table, it can feel like you’re not supposed to be there. Myself and other women suffer from imposter syndrome, a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent, internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud” despite external evidence of their competence. I often find myself trying to fake it ‘til I make it. However, by being a presence in the room and reaching out to other influential women, I have accessed mentorship and opportunity, and I now have people in my corner. It has been uncomfortable and scary, but I gained much more than I lost. I made mistakes along the way and might have embarrassed myself a few times, but I have my foot in the door and that’s what matters. 

 

Fill the gaps and be of use

It’s important to remember that being at the table is a privilege, one we should not take for granted. So, be of use when you occupy a seat. Prepare yourself before you walk in the door. If you’re going to speak, say something smart and remind your boss why they hired you. If you see a gap in the process, offer to address it. Taking initiative and being engaged are some of the ways competence is judged, and the bar is unfortunately much higher for women. We have to constantly prove ourselves to be taken seriously. We have to show up over and over again. We have to go the extra mile. We have to work harder and work smarter because of the double burden we face. And it will do wonders for career advancement, but maybe not always for likability. But you’re not in the business of people pleasing, are you?  

 

Take pride in your accomplishments

Success and likability are often in opposition for women. We worry about being disliked, appearing unattractive, outshining others, or grabbing too much attention. A study done at Cornell University found that men overestimate their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both. Obviously, men are not exempt from doubting themselves, but they do not let their doubts stop them as often as women do. Think of this when you’re applying for your next job. Maybe you don’t meet all the requirements, but please understand that no one knows everything. Most of us just pretend we do, and some of us are better at pretending than others. Some of us are better at sticking out our noses and asking, “why not me?” I have come to understand that you must know what you have to offer and only accept what you are deserving of. No one is going to advocate for you but you.

 

 

Finding Balance

Finding Balance

How do you strike a balance between career advancement and life fulfillment? Hear from a round table of powerful, successful Canadian business women on what their strategy is.
 
 
 

Position yourself as an expert – Andrea Lekushoff

BY ANDREA LEKUSHOFF


 Andrea Lekushoff, President, Broad Reach Communications Andrea has a track record of building strong reputations and delivering business results for many of the world’s most respected brands. Committed to giving back to businesswomen around the world, Broad Reach provides microfinancing to 10 women entrepreneurs in Tanzania through FINCA Canada and is a sponsor of the Women of Influence Luncheon Series.


Andrea Lekushoff was a Young Women of Influence keynote speaker in June, 2014.

I started my career in the early 1990s as the press assistant at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. In this role I was surrounded by experts from around the world, and every day I witnessed their abilities to shape regional, national, and international Whether the speaker was President Bill Clinton, World Bank president James Wolfensohn, or movie star and activist Elizabeth Taylor, these experts commanded the attention and respect of others because their position, knowledge, or advocacy made them authorities in their fields. There, I learned about the power of being an expert.

I became fascinated by what it takes for someone to become known for their expertise, and over the past two decades I’ve honed the skills of positioning people and organizations as experts. That process has become a big part of what my PR agency does for both the executives and the brands we represent.

Arianna Huffington’s career proves how a person can gain significant influence through the power of expertise. Not one to shy away from the spotlight, she put her name on the Huffington Post and she has become her own best advertising campaign. Sherry Cooper is another example. As the executive vice-president and chief economist of BMO Financial Group, Dr. Cooper established herself as an expert and has made a career of demystifying complex areas of economics and finance, a skill that has made her a soughtafter speaker and writer.

To advance professionally, we all must demonstrate and share our expertise, putting ourselves and our talents into the spotlight.

 

 

 

Here are a few insights into the process we use to position our clients as experts.

  • Select the topic for which you want to be known. Align it with your knowledge, experience, interests, and the objectives of your organization.
  • Decide on key messages that are clear, concise, and memorable. With repeated use they will serve as the foundation of all your communication efforts.
  • Set clear, measurable goals to help you chart your course and measure your success.
  • Identify who you want to reach and what you want the outcome of the communication to be. Do you want audience members to be introduced to you? Do you want them to think better of you? Do you want them to tell others about you? Or do you want them to take action? Be explicit and precise because unclear objectives will undermine the effectiveness of your strategy.
  • Identify the channels that target the individuals you want to influence. There are more ways than ever to get your message out: newspapers, magazines, television, blogs, speaking opportunities,social media, and many others.
  • Measure the results. What you measure depends on your objectives. It could be the volume of article downloads, media mentions, interview requests, or any number of other metrics. If you can’t find a measurement associated with the goal you have set, your goal may be too vague and it’s time to re-evaluate it.

Bringing in the help you need to position yourself or your organization as an authority can be invaluable. In other words, using the right experts to help you showcase your expertise is a smart way to help you get the results you want both quickly and effectively.