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Human Resources in Conflict

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Human Resources in Conflict

If you are in the process of raising kids, you are well aware that your advice means little because, simply, you lack credibility. Yet if a favorite teacher, a coach or their best friend’s mom say the same thing, the wisdom is absorbed and retained until their next favorite influencer comes along.

Human resources personnel often face the same challenge as parents do when trying to reach employees. They have the knowledge and skills to do the job, but their attempts to motivate and improve relationships simply fall flat because trust is lacking.

HR is most successful when training for skills vs. building trusting relationships. Why? Well, because the same department that purports to have your best interests in mind, extols your benefits, and welcomes new hires as part of the “family,”  just fired a popular manager because of a rift with the uptight boss, or pink-slipped a co-worker because she took too much time off caring for a sick relative.

The love/hate relationship between HR and staff may never be overcome. This is one reason why HR often leans on outside sources when it comes to building trust among employees. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot force him to drink. What really matters is who leads the horse to the water.

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“The secret to building relationships is to get away from the corporate microscope,” says Mason Lengyel, Venture Up program director. When employees feel they are being observed by HR, a wall goes up. Wouldn’t you cringe if someone was hovering over you while being forced to participate in an invasive, awkward experience? Chances are, you’d become detached too.

When corporate leaders call Venture Up to help address conflict among team members, they are taking the right step in seeking resources outside themselves, regardless of who they hire. “If conflict is intense, we are often invited in-house to connect with the team and get feedback before the interactive team event even begins,” says Lengyel.

Here are positive way leaders can address conflict and move your team past conflict:

  1. Meet face-to-face: When you meet with individual team members, let them do the talking. Your mission is to acquire information so you can effectively address the team as a whole. How do they view the conflict? What would they do if they were in charge? Pause often. Cast judgment aside, or the information resource may clam up.
  2. State the Problem: Using snippits of information from every team member, communicate clearly what you discovered during the face-to-face meeting. Let them know they already have the resources to fix it. In so doing, you hand the problem over to them to solve vs. you acting as a parental authority.
  3. Positive Resolutions: Ask each team member to take into consideration the feed back you received and come up with two ideas:

a.) How can they improve to be a better asset to the team. (eg. Listen more, show up prepared).

b.) How other members can combine efforts to move the team past conflict.

  1. Empower them to express feelings: Now that they know it is up to them, open the door to allow each team member to express their feelings. This process does much to clear the air and resolve tension.
  2. Purge negative feelings: In resolving conflict, team members must specifically identify situations that cause them anger, hurt or frustration. (Eg. Ronald criticizes my ideas, then steals them. Betty is funny, but she jokes around too much and we end up doing all the work. Bernie monopolizes the conversation and makes me recoil and hibernate.) It’s not easy, but once employees face the “why” of the conflict they are on their way to healing it.
  3. Find common areas of agreement: Re-state the problem so the team is in agreement. Agree on the steps to follow. Agree on to cooperate to make the positive changes necessary to resolve the conflict for good.
  4. Follow up in 2 weeks. If the matter is not resolved, identify where the lack of cooperation lies. It may be time to break up the team, or hire an outside consultant, an expert in conflict resolution, to help you determine what measures to take.