I was approached by an organization this week to help them deal more effectively with conflict amongst their teams.
It seems that the company had gone through a few mergers that resulted in disconnected teams as well as discontented team members. In particular there appeared to be little communication between supervisors, as each was holding on to their ways of planning and executing. It was even described to me as: “Old timers want to keep the old mindset.” Not a very positive way to look at working though issues.
Thinking about how to approach this organization’s issues, I began to get a tightening in my stomach. I questioned what the real challenges were and why they were happening.
After speaking with some of the people in the company, I came to realize that they had gone from a small, more family type culture to a bigger workplace with many diverse backgrounds. Team members were fearful to bring up their concerns so issues got pushed aside-or so they thought.
Here are five strategies to overcome conflict between seasoned team members and new team players:
1. ADMIT THE PROBLEM
The first step that this organization has to take, which they are taking, is being honest about the team conflict. Take a hard look at what is happening and why. If team members are feeling afraid to speak up and share their concerns, leadership has to be aware and address that. If some people who have been in a company for a long time are missing the camaraderie of a family culture, then tackle that. Whatever is the real disconnect, make sure to allow it to emerge.
2. BRING BOTH SIDES TOGETHER
Whether a team member is seasoned or a newbie, both perspectives are critical to the success of an organization. That means, set up time to pull everyone together and learn about one another.
- Share some personal stories
- Identify what each member feels is important to keep
- Discuss the pros and cons of the changes
- Allow people to vent
3. CREATE A PROFESSIONAL LANGUAGE
If communication is iffy at best, then work on ways to develop effective strategies. Using clear, open and respectful language is so essential when sharing responsibilities and roles. Listen and then listen some more to what each individual is really saying. Make sure there is understanding and clarity.
4. LEARN FROM EACH OTHER
Commit to being open to learning from everyone-seasoned and newbie alike.
- Have the “old timers” roll out why certain procedures work for them
- Encourage newbies to explain how they might improve the process
- Develop mentoring and reverse mentoring programs and pair team members with people with different views from theirs
- Try not to prejudge or make decisions before hearing one another out
5. FORM A NEW TEAM SPIRIT
The ultimate goal is to create a new team culture and spirit that captures both vantage points of the seasoned team members and the newbies. Decide on what values are most important and when conflict comes up, be willing to work through it with respect and care for one another. Empower each person on the team to lead from wherever they are.
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