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Diffusing Conflict Between Co-Workers

So everything isn't always peachy keen when it comes to working together.  At times co-workers are going to get in each others'  face and have some conflict.  As a bystander, there's some things you can do and not do to help put out the co-worker fire:

  • Let them know how their conflict is affecting the rest of the team - Many times team members in conflict are only concerned about their own situation and don't see how the conflict impacts others. Truth is, when doing a team meeting with two ice-cold colleagues in the room with the pressure so thick it can be cut with a knife, the entire team is impacted. If the conflicting colleagues know the impact they are having on others they may be more likely to extend olive branches to each other.
  • Don't play unsolicited referee - If two colleagues are having a hard time with each other, avoid injecting yourself into a referee position without being asked. One or both of the parties will likely not want your involvement and you'll likely make things worse.
  • Do be available if asked for help - If your colleagues do ask for your help, then by all means do it. Make sure the environment is conducive to good discussion; go to a private conference room, make sure temperature is comfortable, don t do it during a time where deadlines are looming.
  • Be impartial - Help keep things focused on facts and focused on specific behaviors, ie. Statements like "You're a slacker" focuses on the person and not on specific action. A better rephrase would be "When the rest of the team was working overtime on meeting this deliverable, you appeared to be not working as hard as the rest of the team."
  • Avoid the water cooler banter - If one of the conflictees corners you to complain about the other, avoid gossip and taking sides about the issue. Listening with an empathetic ear is great, but keep your counsel focused on the conflictees getting together to resolve the issue.
Best to you -