Focus on Behaviour, Not Conflict Management

This article gives counsel about conflict on teams to the theme of “why can’t we just all get along?”

I think it’s the wrong approach. It puts the manager in the unpleasant and untenable position of being the counsellor, facilitator, and negotiator. From my experience I have found that role frustrating, futile, and not the best use of my time.

Try this instead:

  • Don’t play the “he said, she said” game. You can spend your entire professional life tracking down who said what to whom, and it won’t get you any closer to being effective, efficient, or delivering what you’re responsible for, and your professional career will be much shorter. Focus on behaviour, give feedback appropriate to the behaviour you observed.
  • Healthy conflict is healthy, but once a decision is made kill all other ideas. Yes, maybe it was the wrong decision, and maybe you’ll have to go back and re-evaluate your options. Until then anything else but full commitment to executing the agreed plan is whining at best and sabotage at worst.
  • Own the inputs. If you’re responsible for the deliverables, you’re responsible for the inputs you need to make the deliverables. If Paul in finance didn’t give you the numbers you need for Friday’s report, it’s not Paul’s fault. It’s yours. You wouldn’t go to your boss with that lame excuse. Why would you accept it from your staff?
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2 responses to “Focus on Behaviour, Not Conflict Management

  1. Question on the second point of killing off ideas.
    Could you explain in more detail or give an example of how somebody in managment postion could do that.

  2. Hi Mathew, welcome to the blog.

    I kind of threw out the “kill all other ideas”, and with your question realized there’s a whole boatload of context missing. We’ll need to have that in place to answer your question properly. Give me a sec…

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