Thursday, April 28, 2011

When is it Time to Intervene?

Conflict at work has left you wondering...
Can the parties work it out themselves?
Can you as HR, their boss, or co-worker assist them?
Is outside intervention your best option?

Some conflict is normal. And people who work together will periodically experience frustration and tension with their co-workers, colleagues, and partners. But when things escalate, or simply persist – never reaching a point of resolution, it’s time to take action.

So the question becomes:
How do you know when the problems between two individuals (or a team) have gone too far?
How can you assess if it’s time to intervene or bring in outside help?
What should you do if only one person deems the issue to be a problem?

To best answer those queries, you need to go to the source. We’ve developed three straightforward questions for the involved
parties to answer with respect to their feelings about the person(s) with whom they are experiencing conflict or tension. We recommend these questions be asked confidentially. The responses you receive will paint a clear picture of the depth of the
problem, and the most likely path to take for creating solutions.

1. How do you feel about working with this individual(s)?
a. Good. We get along fine
b. Manageable. It could be better, but things are stable
c. Bad. Things need to improve soon
d. Miserable. I do not like working with this individual

2. What is your trust level with this individual(s)?
a. High. I trust this individual and can rely on him/her/them
b. Moderate. I trust this person(s) about the same as I trust most others
c. Low. I do not trust this person and often feel the need to watch him/her
d. Extremely low. I cannot trust or rely on this person

3. How confident are you that you can resolve the issue on your own?

a. I am certain I can resolve this issue favorably – and plan to do so.
b. I believe I can resolve this issue favorably, but am not sure yet
c. I have given up trying to resolve this issue
d. This issue cannot be resolved

The following two questions are directed toward the “helper” in this situation. This may be a member of Human Resources, a Manager, an Executive, or an Owner.

4. How confident are you that you can bring trust back to the desired levels?
a. Very confident – I know I can do it
b. Somewhat confident – I see the possibility
c. Not very confident – So far nothing has worked
d. Not at all confident – Nothing has worked, and probably nothing will

5. How confident are you that things will get better without further intervention?
a. Very confident
b. Somewhat confident
c. Not very confident
d. Not at all confident

With regard to all five questions, any answer of “C” or “D” is an indication of a problem. The more answers in that range – the greater the degree of concern.

Responses to the first two questions are designed to tell you about the breadth of the problem. Question 3 will indicate the ability and willingness of the involved parties to work it out on their own. Don’t be misled by inconsistency between respondents. Even if only one person responds with C’s or D’s, the answers you receive are significant. A one-sided complaint typically identifies that one side is being more honest, is experiencing more pain from the conflict, or is simply more eager to see the interaction improve.

Finally, to determine what level of intervention is appropriate, examine the responses to questions 4 and 5. Here, answers in the C or D range will indicate the need for outside assistance. But don’t despair. When issues are close to us, we often lack the perspective, insight, and objectivity to resolve them ourselves. Investing in an outside consultant can yield phenomenal results and bring about much desired improvement and change.

We have been successful in helping individuals and teams to improve their working relationships and bring things to a level of respect, civility, and at times, even harmony. Please contact us to see if we can help.

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