How NOT to Handle Team Conflict: 2 Leadership Mistakes to Avoid


The truth is, most team conflicts are easier to resolve than we think. However, a few common leadership mistakes often make the issue worse, rather than alleviating the tension. Let me share a quick story that highlights two of these common mistakes.

A few years ago, a manager brought me in to help resolve a conflict that had been festering within their team. One particular person on the team (we’ll call them Alex) was doing work they seemingly loved, and was thriving in certain aspects of that work. However, other aspects of the work was like pulling teeth to get Alex to pay attention to it.

Others soon became resentful of Alex, because the duties that they were ignoring had to be spread to other team members. When the manager tried to address this issue with Alex, they immediately put up a wall and the tension only worsened.

Once I was brought up to speed, I had the manager walk me through how they attempted to resolve this issue with Alex. Afterward, it became abundantly clear why Alex had shut down.

Feeling frustrated, the manager approached Alex with anger, accusing them of being lazy and ignoring certain aspects of their work. While it’s understandable for this leader to feel frustrated, bringing anger into a conflict will rarely (read: never) dissolve the tension and resolve the conflict.

Keep these two tips in mind when addressing conflict within your team:

1) Remove emotion

As a leader, it’s important for you to remove your own frustration, anger, or other emotions that you may be feeling before you address someone on your team. Leading from a space of empathy will instantly diffuse any tension and allow your team members to feel comfortable expressing exactly what is going on.

2) Seek to understand

The second mistake this manager made was assuming they knew why Alex wasn’t getting all their work done – they were just “lazy.” In reality, there were many possible reasons for the work not getting done. Did they understand the task? Did they have the resources they needed? Did they have the time available to get everything done?

After we asked these questions, we discovered that Alex didn’t feel confident completing certain aspects of the work. Therefore, they focused on the aspects of their job that they did feel confident in, and were receiving high praise for.

Once we were able to get to the core of the situation, we found ways to support Alex in what they needed, which allowed them to feel more confident getting their work done – and the conflict was resolved.

Got a conflict that needs to be resolved, like, yesterday?

It doesn’t have to take days, weeks, or months to resolve a team conflict – in fact, it should only take a few hours at most with the right leadership approach.

In my VIP Day Leadership Accelerator coaching sessions, I’m able to take my clients from deep within a festering team conflict, to having a solid action plan to dissolve the tension – all in a matter of a few hours.

We’ll walk through how the conflict started and what you’ve tried so far to address it. Then we’ll review a model for how to effectively communicate with your team and get to the root cause of the issue. From there, we’ll role play conversations and different scenarios that might arise so you can feel confident going back to your team and resolving the conflict once and for all.

You’ll leave this session with a solid action plan for how to address the conflict and work with that person (or persons) moving forward.

Don’t let team conflict fester any longer. Click here to book a session today.

LaToya Jordan, Leadership Coach

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