A Direct Approach to Resolve Conflict with a Coworker

By Whit Mitchell

It probably won’t surprise you that in my line of work, I tend to do a lot of team conflict resolution. Coworker disagreements and conflict are common in most workplaces, as we attempt to blend a variety of personalities, preferences and behaviors into a single team.

When I get a call that two colleagues are not working well together, I have a process that I follow—and it’s produced successful results over the years. I start by having both parties complete the TTI Success Talent Insights Assessment, which measures their behaviors (the “how” they do something) and their driving forces (the “why” they do something). I have each of them take this assessment before I even meet them. I take a look at those two reports, and I can pinpoint with accuracy what’s going on, even before I hear the whole story.

After reviewing their assessment reports, I meet with each of them individually and then together. During our individual meetings, we will take about 90 minutes to debrief their report. I ask them to highlight the different areas they agree with. The report gives them a detailed snapshot of their natural behaviors, the things that drive them, what they are passionate about, and the best ways to communicate with them, including ways not to communicate. It allows the person to understand and see with clarity their natural and adaptive styles at work, and gives them relatable language to communicate what they’d like people to know about them.

Then I meet with them together, asking them to bring their highlighted reports, and in the meantime I run what is called a comparison report, measuring the two individuals’ results together in one document. The comparison report makes it very easy to see the differences and similarities between the two people. I can show them from the comparison where they might be experiencing conflict.

I allow them to read each other’s reports, drawing attention to what they have highlighted. Then I ask each of them to tell me what they most appreciate about what the other person has highlighted. For example, they might say, “I like how outgoing and friendly you are,” or “I like how you ask questions and pay attention to details.”

What inevitably comes out of this exchange is a new appreciation for one another. There is a moment of, “Wow, she’s has never told me this. I didn’t know she appreciated that.” And there is also a shift that happens when you set the conflict aside and take a moment to consider what you appreciate about the other person.

This type of communication allows us to get a deeper understanding of the other person, what they do well, how they work, and how we can work better with them.

Then I ask them both to make three requests of each other:

  1. I’d like you to start doing this.
  2. I’d like you to stop doing this.
  3. I’d like you to continue doing this.

They ask things like, “I’d like you to give me more details. I’d like you to participate in meetings more. Sometimes you can be critical, so I would like to know once in a while what I’m doing well. I’d like you to continue taking detailed notes. I’d like you to continue connecting with people,” and so on.

We meet in again at two weeks, four weeks, and six weeks to measure how each person is doing on these three commitments. It’s great to see the changes that get made when they can see the reports firsthand, and they have specific tasks to be accountable to.

If you’d like to talk to Whit about team conflict or if you have a question for him, email him at whit@price-associates.com