It seems like every organization has its handful of people that just can’t get along. How can you as a leader help bridge the gap between the two sides so that your organization can begin moving forward?
I ran into this story while browsing the web one day. I don’t remember where I found it, but I think it drives home the point that conflict is EVERYWHERE.
A young rabbi found a serious problem in his new congregation. During the Friday service, half the congregation stood for the prayers and half remained seated, and each side shouted at the other, insisting that theirs was the true tradition. Nothing the rabbi said or did helped solve the impasse. Finally, in desperation, the young rabbi sought out the synagogue’s 99-year-old founder.He met the old rabbi in the nursing home and poured out his troubles. “So tell me,” he pleaded, “was it the tradition for the congregation to stand during the prayers?”
“No,” answered the old rabbi.
“Ah,” responded the younger man, “then it was the tradition to sit during the prayers.”
“No,” answered the old rabbi.
“Well,” the young rabbi responded, “what we have is complete chaos! Half the people stand and shout and the other half sit and scream.”“Ah,” said the old rabbi, “that was the tradition.”
So how do you as a leader approach conflicting parties within your organization?
1. Realize that the problem is most likely with a smaller group of people than you think. Most people aren’t really involved in the conflict other than by association. These people may be there when conflict is going on but may not actually be involved. Don’t pull them into it when they aren’t the problem. Get to the root of the issue by narrowing your vision on the key players.
2. Face to face reprimands should always occur prior to a public rebuke. Don’t chew out your whole staff when the problem actually lies with a select few. Pull them into the office and confront them. CERTAINLY don’t call these people out in front of the group. You’ll immediately split the room into teams, most of who will probably side with the staff member that just took your verbal lashing.
3. Don’t assume that the problem will just go away. Ignoring the problem NEVER works. It only gets worse with time. Catch it as early as you can. Deal with it just as quickly.
4. Hard words will either break strong wills or push them farther away. Always be honest. Don’t sugar coat it, but don’t dramatize it either. Be straight. Be honest. “Your behavior is keeping us from being our best.” may be more appropriate than “I don’t really mind but others are kind of bothered by your actions…maybe you should think of stopping”, or “You’re going to be the reason we close our doors!!!”. 🙂 Being honest will either cause them to set things straight or resist you even more. If they continue to resist, cut them loose.
5. Teach your team to speak well of you by first setting the example. This is key. Teach your staff to properly submit to authority by setting the example. How do you speak about your supervisor when you’re in front of your staff? They will follow your lead. Show them how to behave.
What are your thoughts? What things would you add to this list?