Conflict Management: How to Get an Attitude Adjustment

Gordon Ramsey is notorious for taking failing restaurants, shaking things up, and helping the owners make them successful. He does this by being blunt, and by not being afraid to confront serious issues. If you’ve ever watched “Kitchen Nightmares,” you’ve seen him help restaurateurs turn around their establishments from disgusting health hazards to well-respected eateries.

Sure, what you see on the small screen is a condensed and dramatized version of the truth, but the core of what happens is the same: He addresses problems within the business and helps people to resolve interpersonal conflict. After all, a failing business is a failure of people to communicate and resolve their differences effectively.

When you consider the fact that most managers spend 30 to 40 percent of their time refereeing problems between employees, it’s a wonder how anything gets done. Time wasted is money lost. So, what do you do when you’ve got an office full of people with bad attitudes? It doesn’t make economic sense to fire everyone, but it makes even less sense to allow things to continue on as they are. Even the places Ramsey turns around keep on most of the help. The trick is to change people’s attitudes.

Find the root of the problem, address it head on, set some goals, and follow through.

Behavioral Problems and Rivalries

Do you have two warring factions in your company; an “us against them” rivalry? If so, it is imperative that you end it. Meet with each person involved in the conflict and find out what the issues are and what they feel might be an acceptable solution to the problem. After you’ve met with everyone individually, call a meeting where all parties are present and play the mediator. Your employees can address all issues, air grievances without fear, and work something out.

If everyone on one side thinks Bob is incompetent, while the other side believes Tom always sabotages Bob’s work, you have to find out why this is. Allow your employees to talk openly without fear of retaliation. You’ll win points and show your team that you really care about them and their mental well-being while on the job. If the problem continues between the two men, you have to decide if one or both parties are worth keeping, and if not, who should stay and who should go.

Personal Problems

Your best employee suddenly starts under performing for no apparent reason. She’s started coming in late looking frazzled or listless. Chances are she’s experiencing personal problems, which can cause a serious decline in productivity. Meet with your employee one on one can be direct but well-meaning. Compliment her past work while expressing concern for recent work.

If you are non-confrontational, it’ll help her open up to you so you can find out exactly what the problem is. If her under performance is, indeed caused by personal problems, be understanding but firm. We’ve all gone through hard times, but the world can’t stop while we mope around. Make a detailed list of tasks improvements, and set boundaries and deadlines. If it’s absolutely necessary, offer to give your worker some time off to take care of her issues. Make it clear, however, that in the future, personal problems must be checked at the door.

Disenfranchised Workers

In this volatile economic climate, we know people ought to feel thankful they have jobs. Millions of people would love to be in your employees’ shoes, right? But even then, if your workers feel as though management doesn’t care about their well-being, their attitude suffers.

Even an employee with the best intentions can foster resentment just for being popular. If your business already has disgruntled workers who perform below expectations, they certainly won’t appreciate a new person who works hard, enjoys praise and makes things a little more difficult for them. Your job as manager, then, is to determine if your marginalized employees have a good reason to feel threatened.

Do other workers withhold information from him? Do other employees take credit for the work he’s done? Has the marginalized employee become the go-to scapegoat whenever things in the office go wrong? If you answered yes, then you have a disenfranchised worker.

Regardless of whether this person really is that big of a screw-up, the fact remains: most people are a result of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe in them, they’ll start to believe in themselves. If you or others constantly berate and belittle them, their performance will obviously reflect that. Keep your door open, and allow your employees to talk to you whenever possible. Nip any scapegoating in the bud whenever you see it, and make sure each employee only takes credit for work he has actually done.

Foster Teamwork

The trend toward putting people on teams in the workplace gives employees a sense of ownership in their work. Allow them a sense of autonomy to make some decisions to show that you have faith in their judgment and chances are, you’ll see some pretty impressive results.

A sense of autonomy allows for more creativity without the feeling of being micromanaging, which is a total attitude killer. You might think that checking your workers’ progress every ten minutes will heighten productivity, but it doesn’t. In fact it’s counterproductive, and will only foster resentment and anger. In an environment like that, not a lot gets done.

Article by T.L. Council

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