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How to Handle Conflict between Agents

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Managers are called upon to exercise good judgment not perfection

By Dr. Cliff Baird

RISMEDIA, June 2008-Are you not amazed by the amount of human conflict you can become involved in between the time you get up in the morning and the time you get to sleep at night?

baird_cliff.jpgSome facts gathered from life experiences:

• The most difficult area to render good judgment is in the Gray Area conflict.
• Ambiguity produces the most conflict.
• Just because two people are saying different things does not mean that one of them is lying. They are seeing the world as it unfolds from their perspective.
• When we know that someone is consistently doing their best to exercise good judgment, we are more willing to forgive them even when they do not rule in our favor.

Some positive assumptions about conflict:

• It is an inevitable part of life.
• It can be productive or damaging, depending on how it is resolved.
• It has many meanings, can arise from many causes and assumes many forms.
• It can always be managed if we become skillful in analyzing the situation accurately and choosing the appropriate means to deal with problems.

Some causes of conflict intensity:
Conflict can become more severe and stress more difficult…

• The longer the conflict is left unattended.
• The more important the issues are between the parties.
• The more frustration is generated during the conflict.

Psychological effects of conflict:

• Emotional and physical energies are wasted.
• The anxiety and tension that are produced effects more than the disputed issues.
• Personal trust is eroded.
• Self-confidence is eroded.

The 6 Steps to Handling Gray Area Conflict

Step 1. Bring each agent into your office one at a time and let them tell you the issue from their perspective. Take notes during these interviews. DO NOT pass judgment too soon. DO NOT agree or disagree. Probe and uncover, but DO NOT take sides this soon…even if you are convinced about the solution. Let your processing demonstrate your consistent search for good judgment.

Step 2. As each agent is leaving your office, ask him/her to write down everything they just told you. You should not be surprised that the written product, if you even receive it, will be a filtered version of the office discourse.

Step 3. Read everything thoroughly and attempt to understand everything from each perspective. Be sure to correlate your notes of the interview with their written material. If there is a significant discrepancy speak to the agent privately before Step 4.

Step 4. Bring them both together into your office and allow them to tell you everything once again in front of each other. Your role here is gatekeeper. It is unlikely that either party will change their opinion but you are doing what you can to assist. Remember, that’s your personal goal.

Step 5. Right at the end of the group session ask them to try to reach a compromise between themselves. Ask them to return within the next day, and tell them if they have worked out a compromise it will be implemented ASAP. However, if not, the statement “I will probably make a decision in favor of one of you” will add pressure to making a decision and will not limit you from rendering a compromised judgment.

Step 6. When you regroup, if there is a compromise, implement it at once. But, if not, then you must be prepared to render your decision right then in their presence.

Caveat: There is a sort of Darwinism existing in every office. The ecology of your office suggests that you have both Lions and Lambs. Lions eat Lambs. The best you can do is to protect the Lamb from unfair circumstances. But do not take the teeth out of the lion.

Cliff Baird, MBA, PhD, has spent over 25 years coaching agents and managers to focus on business systems that lead to abundant success. He is the developer of The RealSTAR Online Recruiting System, which helps managers handle the recruiting process.

For more information, e-mail cliff@cliffbaird.com or vist www.realstarrecruits.com.

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