How to Handle Disagreements Between Direct Reports

As a manager, you are constantly interacting and communicating with everyone on your team.  In the midst of all the information that is getting passed around, it is inevitable that there will be misunderstandings, personal grievances, and conflicts that flare up.   It can be difficult enough for managers to handle conflicts among team members, but what happens when tensions build between managers and their direct reports?  Disagreements with direct reports can be one of the most difficult challenges that managers face but it’s a challenge that successful leaders must learn to address.  Here are a few suggestions for handling difficult situations between managers and their direct reports.

  • As a leader, it is important to remain focused on achieving the mission of the company. This may mean taking a stand on tough issues even if it brings about tension with one of your direct reports.  Managers cannot avoid speaking up for fear of rocking the boat with employees.  Rather, they need to do what is best for the company.
  • While managers need to be assertive and focus on doing what is right, they should also remember that it is not about proving their point as much as it is empowering great employees. They should be sensitive to how they are perceived by their peers and make sure that they address any conflict in a way that builds positive relationships.
  • Managers should not set out to prove that their direct reports are “wrong.” It is important to note that just because their opinions differ it doesn’t necessarily mean that the employee is wrong.  Instead, they should be objective and willing to see things from another perspective.  Every now they just might find out that it is they who are wrong.
  • When conflicts arise with direct reports, managers need to be slow to speak and quick to listen. Tempers can flare and tensions can build when people react quickly.  Sometimes if you just back away and take some time to reflect you might see things from a clearer perspective.
  • Managers should avoid placing blame and focus on verbalizing the issue at hand. They should foster a relationship of open communication among peers so that issues can be discussed in a way that leads to quick and effective resolutions.  Encourage employees to talk to you about difficulties.  Keeping the lines of communication open is key to a successful working relationship.
  • Finally, address any conflicts immediately. Never avoid conflict or put it off.  That can just lead to bigger problems and can cause both parties to harbor resentment.  Remember, the goal is to empower your employees and do what is best for the company so any problems should be addressed right away.