Rembt's blog about
professional cooperation

Do's & Don'ts for the manager for resolving tension between two members of a team quickly and permanently

By Rembt Sickinghe

If there is tension between two people in your team, they will complain to you or others. They have less enthusiasm. Whereas the tension was first indiscernible, it has now come to the surface. This can also influence the atmosphere in the team. Realisation of targets will be threatened if this continues unchecked. A rapid solution is required. First, this cost the two colleagues a lot of time and energy and now you too.

Do’s – tips for improving the cooperation in a team

  1. Addressing immediately.
    The two will often have waited (too) long before bringing this up with you. First of all, they thought that the problem would just go away if they ignored it or avoided each other (preferable to seeking each other out). If a problem continues to fester, the two will never get the maximum from their working relationship. Take action at the first sign.

  2. Take stock of matters.
    Ask them what they have undertaken up until now to resolve the matter? Have they sat down together? Why not? How did it go? What do they expect from you as their manager? What are they planning to do if they cannot resolve this? As a manager, do not jump into action too quickly, it is their responsibility.

  3. Dialogue.
    It is important that the two engage in a dialogue with each other in a structured and safe way. It might be the first ‘really’ open conversation, in which difficult things are verbalised or things on which a taboo rests. And there is nothing more difficult than having a first ‘Good Conversation’. They have to talk to each other.
  4. Agenda with the right subjects.
    It is important that the two discuss the right things. In the case of problems, matters are commonly muddled together (content and relationship). The two usually do not have a clear view of how the strands of spaghetti on the plate should be unravelled.

  5. Leave them to come up with a solution.
    If the two think of solutions themselves (bottom up), there is a far greater chance that they will observe the agreements they have reached, than when a manager provides them, or they are enforced (top down). A solution is good when this unites that which they both consider to be important. They have to both be able to explain to you why they think the chosen solution is reasonable. If they cannot find a solution, you can ask them to look at how other people with a similar problem resolved it.

Don’ts – what you should doing in the case of conflicts in a team

  1. Do not choose sides.
    You are the manager for both of them and both seek your approval. If you choose sides, one has the feeling that they have won and the other that they have lost. The two will not then work successfully in the long term. If you or someone from HR is drawn in, the chance of resistance is much greater. So, leave the two to work on the solution themselves and avoid at your peril acting as the judge. And, act equally for both of them.

  2. Do not form a judgement too quickly.
    This is easier said than done. Guard against jumping to conclusions. Through listening , you will understand more than is explained and do not head for a solution too quickly. The two will not appreciate it if you think on their behalf. The advice is to listen without judging. Let the two know that you understand (summarise): what is going on (say something about the content), that you understand how this affects them (emotional reflection) and what it is actually all about. And check if what they have told you is correct.

  3. There is no such thing as an absolute reality.
    Both of them have their own opinion of how something is. A reality exists supported by both their subjective views.

  4. Just leave them to their own fate.
    ‘Work it out yourselves’ without offering help increases the risk that the tension will continue to build or that the conflict remains unresolved. The maximum is not reaped from the cooperation, apart from the impact of a disrupted working relationship on the surroundings.

  5. Do too little about prevention.
    Ensure that every member of the team knows the status of the most important working relationships, which are crucial for his or her success.

If, as the manager, you want to make things easier, have the two first participate in a Heat scan before you get involved. They will then first set to work together. You and they both receive information based on the Heat scan report. This gives them an opportunity and another starting position for resolving this themselves. Which is more pleasant for them and saves you time.

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