Leadership Partners Blog

Reaching Conflict Resolution: Don’t Be a Robert

Reaching conflict resolution can seem like a daunting task. Even more so when the conflict occurs between two team mates who have become friends. Many years ago I worked directly with the executive

management team.  There were two team members named Robert.  Robert and Robert were buddies at work and their families socialized on the weekends.  They didn’t work directly together, one in sales the other in production, but they often consulted with each other when questions arose.  Every Monday morning there was an executive team meeting to discuss pressing matters, it lasted until noon.

One Monday morning the men didn’t look at each other during the meeting they didn’t speak to each other unless required.  They men didn’t visit after the meeting, or go to lunch which was usually the case after Monday meetings.  At first we were curious in a gossip-y way.  We examined all the

possibilities and potential issues and focused our discussions on what seemed likely.  They were the talk of the water cooler for a couple of weeks.

Because this is an instance of gossip, rather than 3rd Party Critique (we were in it for entertainment) does not mean there was no real conflict to resolve.  In fact, the conflict was more troublesome as time passed.  Individually executive team members approached one Robert or the other, inquiring about the events.  Neither Robert would comment beyond “It’s personal.”

Where there was once a highly productive and efficient team filled with light banter; there was now a group of people who sat in uncomfortable silence unable to engage each other effectively and the productivity of the ENTIRE team suffered.  The “Big Boss” told them that the conflict was affecting work and they must get over it.  Dictating behavior rarely works (ask any mother of bickering children) but is often employed.  Did it work?  Nope.

HR couldn’t fix the problem either… it was over an undisclosed personal matter.  The men were each heads of major departments with specialized knowledge and years of hands on experience.  What to do?

We didn’t know who to call or how to reach conflict resolution.  I have since moved on and hear that the team slowly increased their productivity but have yet to reach their previous levels and Monday meetings are awful compared to what they once were.  Consequently, the organization is suffering.

Don’t be like the Roberts.  Call us when the team suffers!  We will help your team get past barriers, move forward, focus on common goals.  You might not like each other for personal reasons, but you can still respect each other and accomplish great things.

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