A business, regardless of its size, is made up of people with varying ages, personalities, experiences, knowledge and emotions split up into their respective departments. You’ve got marketing, advertising, IT, logistics, HR, security, and accounting to name a few. In order to ensure that a company continues humming along, teams from all different departments must cooperate to ensure projects get done.
When everything is running smoothly, there’s nothing to worry about. But sooner or later, something inevitably goes wrong. There are delays, arguments, negotiations, logjams, and snafus, any of which could be detrimental in getting a project done on time. But nothing slows down a company’s success than conflict. In many cases, conflict often goes along undetected until it’s too late.
A question every entrepreneur, leader and manager should ask themselves is this – How well do I know my team?
Answer: Not as well as you might think.
For all its faults, America is still the strongest country in the world because they have learned how to harness people’s individual talents and give them an environment in which to explore their potential. But what was once America’s greatest strength –diversity – has also become its greatest weakness.
To tackle this, some companies hire consultants such as Robin DiAngelo to talk on the topic of white fragility in hopes of creating team unity. Ironically, this can end up causing more division. Blaming one race for society’s ills and the company’s failures causes people to fall on either side of the fence; resentment on one side and entitlement on the other.
So, if that’s not the solution, what is?
I think back to what Jim Rohn’s mentor used to tell him, “There’s usually about a half dozen things that make 80% of the difference.” Whenever people see signs of conflict within their teams, a good place to start is Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s a masterclass in how to better understand our colleagues, team members and even family members. Combine that with Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which talks about how to improve both yourself, and you have a solid foundation from which to work from.
Here are some signs to look for within your team and how to deal with them.
Conflict Sign: Poor attitude
We are emotional animals. Over years of experience, many people have gotten skilled at hiding their emotions from others. It prevents them from seeming weak. Nevertheless, they show up in subtle ways. Our facial reactions, our movements, our choice of words, our language all are dead giveaways if people know us well enough. How often have you heard people say all the right words, but we just didn’t believe them? That’s because we have telltale signs that others pick up on.
Solution: Get to the root of the problem. The cause of poor attitude could be any number of things. People might not even be aware of how they are affecting other team members.
Conflict Sign: Bad behavior
One rotten apple spoils the barrel. The problem with bad behavior is it’s contagious. Best to tackle this head-on before it becomes an issue.
Solution: Consequences need to be made clear to everyone on the team that certain behavior will not be tolerated. While there may be some that dislike this approach, most employees appreciate clarity and well-defined boundaries. Some leaders are conflict-averse which can lead to resentment within your team if some members are seen to be “getting away with murder.”
Conflict Sign: Generation gap
The digital age has ushered in incredible technological and medical developments, but they have also blown the playing field wide open. For the first time ever, we have four generations sharing the workspace which causes all sorts of issues mainly linked to a lack of understanding.
Solution: A great exercise to do if you feel there is a gap between team members is to have each member answer a series of questions to better understand how each generation approaches business and life and then come together to discuss their answers. Done correctly, this can be highly revealing and lead to a new sense of camaraderie between your team.
Conflict Sign: Tardiness
We are all late from time to time, life just gets in the way. However, some people are habitually late. We all know who they are because we simply expect them to be late. The problem with this is tardiness can fester into resentment as some people just aren’t seen as team players or receiving special treatment.
Solution: Cut people some slack, but make them understand that it will not be tolerated. No consequences, no change.
People leave, that’s a fact of life. What is worrisome though is if a large number of people leave around the same time. Something’s afoot.
Solution: Increasing company morale, creating a strong vision for the company, better working conditions and training for employees are all powerful ways to reduce attrition.
Conflict: Treating everyone the same
While rules need to apply to everyone, a leader shouldn’t make the mistake of treating everyone equally. We are individuals with unique skills and different backgrounds. Some people might require more one-on-one time, others might need flexibility due to their family situation.
Solution: Learn to talk to each employee on their level. A good book that illustrates how to do this is Ken Blanchard’s The One-Minute Manager.
A team is nothing more than a group of individuals that work together to achieve a common goal. As a leader, you must learn what approach works best for who. Failure to act on these common signs of conflict can lead to huge problems down the line. Act fast, be decisive and find ways to get the most out of your team.