‘Shake, rattle and roll’ – target conflict within your team

Shake, rattle and roll. The key to effecting good leadership in the face of conflict within your team.

Future of Work

Work, an opportunity to throw people together and expect them to play nicely. They aren’t friends, they’re not family, yet we make a blanket assumption that if they have the skills you’re looking for they’ll automagically get on with your crew, happy days, broad smiles, let’s hold hands and skip into the sunset.

If ‘reality’ had a persona, he’d be hunched over and rubbing his hands with glee right now because we all know, that despite the great expectation of happy happy work, sometimes even your prize player, star performer, super-d-duper ace of an employee is causing an undercurrent of conflict that over time will bubble over like a frothy cappuccino (and I don’t drink coffee).

Let’s take a step back shall we …

According to Gallop’s State of the Global Workforce, a staggering 87% of the world’s workforce are disengaged or actively disengaged at work. As the percentages vary from country to country surveyed, lets assume around 40% of those 87% are actively disengaged. They arrive at work, do what needs to be done, leave a cloud of gloom and frustration in their wake, figuratively turn everyone’s lights off. Up until recently, I innocently assumed that these people were the ones delivering tardy work, scraping by on next to no delivery output while causing havoc within their teams. But I’m wondering about the great deliverers who have equal ability to negatively affect those around them. How do we label them? Are they worth keeping around? What’s the best way to deal with the conflict to avoid an internal war which is simply no good to anyone?

Call me a marshmallow but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Heading up our global ops team I’ve got to hear our CEO say “T, you’re so overprotective of the team” on so many occasions now I’m almost afraid to ask if that is a good or bad thing. Don’t get me wrong, I can be hard, firm and nasty if I really have to be, but instinctively I’m more protective, especially of our star performers.

So what is my modus operandi of dealing with with Mr Brilliant and his healthy habit of annoying everyone on the team, you ask? The answer is not simple, nor fixed, nor one-size-fits-all I’m afraid. Humans are complex and star player or not, conflict is best dealt with swiftly. Here’s my approach:

  1. Shake: I’ve seldom seen a situation not improve after deep conversation. Feeling acknowledged is an intrinsic part of human satisfaction so even if consensus is not achieved, if all voices are heard, reaching a favourable outcome is far more manageable if you have all sides of a story in play. While you likely don’t have the time to add one more thing on your already overflowing plate, it really is worth every ounce of the effort getting to listen to everyone at this stage. If you can shake things up and bad habits off now, you are on to a winner. If you’ve not yet got the team to complete a work style questionnaire, you really want to do this now, let everyone discuss their results and talk openly as to why something someone does might negatively impact another.
  2. Rattle: If the shaking solution produces no results, you might need to rattle things up a tad. It is simply not normal for colleagues never to squabble so if your team appears perfectly nice all the time, you should likely be questioning what’s happening underneath this utopia. A vociferous encounter will likely get heart beats racing and cheeks flushing. It’s what happens after this ‘tackling conflict head on’ approach that the goodness lies.
  3. Roll: For the record, I’m not saying it will be smooth sailing from this moment forward so re-read point two above and remember that it shouldn’t be. As a leader/manager of a team it’s most important that you are aware of what it is your team are thinking and feeling so you can defuse crazy emotions before they become untameable, so you can retain great staff regardless of their temperament while continually building greatness, one human at a time. Our CEO put this message out to the team a few weeks ago, the outcome has been profound:

this is a short message. it’s simple but critical.

are you happy in this company?

if you were to rate your happiness at work on a scale of 1-10, what would it be?

if that number is below 7, i want to invite you to private message me and tell me why. i want to really listen to you.

if that number is above 7, i want to invite you to private message me and tell me why. i want to again listen.

you are more important to me than you realise and if we aren’t getting happiness at work right ourselves then we have some deep inner work to do.

looking forward to hearing from you in whatever shape or form you feel most comfortable in.

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