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Can a Manager Create a Motivated, Conflict-free Team?

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Two of the most common challenges a manager has are:

1. How do I motivate my staff to want to do more?
2. How do I prevent in-fighting and tension, so I’ve got more time to focus on getting the job done?

I find managers often talk of feeling frustrated or uncertain about how to deal with conflict or apathy and under performance on their team. As a coach, it saddens me that, quite frequently, I’m brought in to coach someone where tension, conflict and disengagement have already reached quite serious levels, and are negatively impacting individual or wider team performance.

It’s such a shame – and on many occasions, (if not all), it could actually have been avoided. How? First of all, you need to understand what happens when conflict and tension occurs. Take a look at the following diagram:

BAD FEELING = UNMET NEED When people aren’t finding their needs are met in the workplace it leads to them feeling bad. It could be they’re frustrated in their role; it could be they’re struggling to cope with pressure; it could be they have some good ideas but no-one listens. Hundreds of causes – one result: unhappy. So, they

MOAN This is all too often by the water cooler, or in the canteen, and rarely is the moan directed at the person it needs to be directed to! Assuming the manager notices what’s going on, effectively defusing the situation would be helpful here – but there may be a tendency to ignore or avoid dealing with the situation at this stage in the hope it will go away. Apathy is probably already setting in.

If there is no opportunity to communicate and the problem continues then this is likely to lead to more overt….

CRITICISM Now staff are more open in their criticism and possibly a little more hostile in their manner. The possibility of comments being made which cause annoyance or anger increase, leading to the….

ROW Always harder to handle, shifting focus from what’s really important, and taking up time you don’t have, trying to deal with the fall-out. And now performance has really dropped – with potential ripple effects to others on your staff too. You’re a manager fighting fires with a danger it may lead to…

DISPUTE Which can lead to

STRIKE/GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE Which can ultimately lead to


Recognize the pattern?

Clearly, the further down the line, the more performance drops, and the harder it becomes to deal with the problem.

Two of the most common responses I see to repair relationships and re-motivate staff are some ad-hoc attempts at team building and one to one communication with individual members of staff as and when the manager has the time.

But such responses, although well-meaning, have little lasting impact and in my experience simply “tinker round the edges” of the problem.

The number one mistake a manager can make?

Burying their head in the sand and only intervene lower down the line – when it’s already at the criticism stage or beyond. By then, of course, it’s more tricky to deal with, and you’re into “fighting fires” mode.