[b]BLUF:[/b] Anything special you'd do when dealing with two employee's conflicting when you are remote and don't actually observe it? I feel somewhat blind and am following a path that they must learn to get along and only bring me behavior issues. Would you take a pulse of the rest of the team? My instincts say no unless they bring it up.

Unless they call me with an issue between them (which is almost every other day), I do not call to check up or ask others on the team to do so. But previously I was denied a promotion specifically because I was told that my personality profile said I didn't deal with conflict even though I thought I had handled most well even though it's not my strength by any means! So, I'm second guessing myself. My instinct says to stay this course.

[b]The Details[/b]
I have a person in a more senior role running being the lead on a product with a person who just came back from a year leave. I have been told by my boss, HR and others I trust that there was a lot of conflict around the person who was on leave. This person was moved around because of job issues but allowed to stay though others recommended otherwise due to difficulties in Canadian law. My boss said multiple people on the team complained about a month before the person came back from leave. (This was before I was the manager of the group.)

Now I have had the lead giving me almost daily complaints on the other employee. The lead keeps bringing up past performance, saying that the other employee does not do the work (which doesn't seem to be the case so far), saying that another team member left due to the other employee - which I now cut off and say that was the past and I am dealing with the present. The lead says that the other employee always manages to stay by basically kissing up to the manager. I cut this off again saying that it is performance that everyone will be measured on. The other employee has made a few mistakes and I'm coaching on those. The lead wants more responsibility and I'm trying to coach the lead on the fact that you have to give specific requirements, learn to supervise a variety of people, have expectations but be fair, elements of Crucial Conversations, etc. I'm coaching the other employee on communicating better, meeting expectations, making sure to listen well to understand requirements before cutting the other person off saying you understand when you may not, etc.

I have another senior person in that location who was a former manager who is trying to help be my eyes and ears. Both of them seem to go to him to vent. He & I agree on focusing on the behavior and not talking about past history. But both of us are starting to feel worn down by this. I also wonder about the rest of the team there. They are very quiet - high "C"s. The lead says they all want the other person gone but no one else has said anything to me. I've only known them for a month. I don't want to let this drag down the team because we already have a number of other issues like reorganization, product consolidation - so stress is pretty high already.

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

[quote="MsSunshine"]previously I was denied a promotion specifically because I was told that my personality profile said I didn't deal with conflict [/quote]
Denied a promotion because your profile said something? That's just bizarre. And lazy. Were there any instances of you not dealing with conflict? Was there observable behavior? If not, who cares what the profile says? We can all choose to act in an appropriate fashion, despite anything in our personality profile.

It sounds like you don't trust/believe your lead. If this person is the lead, it's their job to make that team succeed. If you don't believe they can do that, they shouldn't be the lead. If you do believe in the lead, then you have to trust them and lose the direct. You would expect your boss to support you.

That being said, if the lead wants to move up, they have to improve their management skills. I would point them at Manager Tools. I would get them drinking the Kool-Aid. You can use their actions with this direct as instructional fodder for coaching.

Did you give positive feedback?
Did you alter your feedback to appeal to their DISC profile?
Did you give adjusting feedback according to the model?
Did you focus on behavior?
What are you doing to help them succeed?

Make some Lemonade.

MsSunshine's picture

I've only known them for a month - all remotely except for a 1 week visit. I also know that both of their previous managers did zero coaching and were bad at feedback. Based on my experience, both are responding well to my feedback and coaching using the M&T guidelines.

I don't doubt my lead or the other believe their side. They just do not seem able to acknowledge the other's perspective - I'm coaching on that. I am concerned about my lead being able to let go of what she feels are past wrongs. I've given her feedback on focusing on behavior & facts not what she thinks the other person is doing. She has a lot of good characteristics - strong organization & process management, desire & drive to make things work, works well with everyone (except this person), demands a lot of herself, etc. I'm giving lots of feedback and coaching her on directing the work of another. She seems to be responding well - except for the continual mention of the other's past problems. The other employee is more junior but seems to be trying - at least is working hard on the feedback I've given.

I'm struggling to figure out the leads DiSC. There is some really high "C" in there with a attention to technical details and drive for perfection. She has lots of facial expressions & animated large gestures. She's very assertive and I would have said strong "D" more than "I" because she is task driven. But she's also extremely emotional to the extent where twice she's cried during discussions saying that she's going to fail working with the other person and ruin her career. So, I'm trying to respond to her feeling but give her facts and specific actions to do.

The comment about my profile was simply to say that I believe I am doing the right thing. But I had believed I was before the profile. So, I have seeds of doubt in my mind now. I think I'm pretty good at getting people to work as a team and have never had any a lot of conflict between people. We disagreed on things but were reasonable and worked things out. My teams were reasonable people that I could work with before it really got to a conflict stage.

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

My comment on the profile thing was that your previous boss, not you, was being lazy. I would be really annoyed to be reviewed on a profile rather than my actual performance. :)

It sounds like you're right in there with your directs.

If you can't figure out the lead's profile, spend $25 and have her take the test. Heck, spend $50 and have them both take the test.

I would delegate the lead a project. The project would be the success of the other direct. It sounds like she's responsible enough to take it seriously. This is a great opportunity for her to really get her management feet wet. With close coaching from you she'll learn a lot. And you'll get to save both employees.

US41's picture


The first step is to give the complainer a task:"Have you spoken directly to them and said, when you ___ then I get ticked off? Could you please do ___ instead? Try having a chat with them directly, then I will get involved when direct communication fails."

Do not be a weapon for one employee to punish another.

When that fails, try conflict resolution:

When the complainer calls with a valid complaint, call up the other and give them feedback. "When you ___whatever they said they did___, then I get calls about it and I become concerned you are not fitting in to the team very well. What could you do differently next time?"

Start ramping it up: "When I get the same complaint three times in a row, and every time you tell me you are going to do something different, and then you don't, I start thinking that something more serious is called for here."

When the complainer calls with no behavior to cite and no valid complaint, the feedback them, "When you call me up to complain and I ask for a specific behavior and instead you just characterize them, it wastes my time. Next time what are you going to do differently?"

Record these interactions in your O3 forms with post-it notes. Keep a record.

Eventually the feedback will create a veritable avalanche of either change or records in your files. If the record becomes thick enough, pack it up to HR and ask them to take action.

Surprisingly, however, usually what happens is two post-it notes accumulate and the behavior extinguishes once you confront it.

MsSunshine's picture

Good news. While not perfect, they are talking to each other and complaining less to me and the other leads in their geography. Everyone is a little relieved over the reduction in stress.

In my 03's with them today, they both mentioned something that surprised me a little - happily though. They both said the daily feedback from me and consistent message from the other leads when they went to them made them realize they had to change. The junior person thought about my coaching on assuming other's motives, decided to take a chance and told the lead she may have misunderstood her requests. Both said it was a frank discussion and they still had some concerns about the other but it relaxed the tension. While both still are a little on edge, it's a relief to them to not worry about it coming to work every day. One actually said thanks for making me face this because I was hoping the other person would just go away.

I had been considering pulling the two of them together but didn't due to the podcast recommending not doing that. So, I was glad to see that one stepped up to my challenge of actually talking to the other when something that person did bothered them.

I was surprised that they even mentioned the feedback directly and stunned to be thanked. So it's a good day!:D

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

Awesome! Good for you. This worked out because of the work you did. Two people still have their jobs. Two people enjoy their jobs more. Heck, the whole team enjoys their jobs more. Today you made the world a better place.

What a terrific boss you are!

MsSunshine's picture

BLUF: I've coached both and given them feedback. Now it's their responsibility to take ownership of making the relationship work. Therefore, if one of them complains again, I'm going to give them instant feedback. If the other is not doing the requirements of their job, I will note that and address it with that person. If the person complaining just wants to complain, I push back that they need to use the skills we've worked on to solve their own problems or request help with a skill.

Details: I know I tend to overwork things and "mother" people too much. (I've been told that in a 360 review and agree.) That is a constant challenge for me. I have spend days worth of time on this issue. I believe it is now their responsibility to carry forward instead of trying to put me in the middle. I've done a lot of coaching. If it's a new situation, that's one thing but I don't want to hear the same conversation we've had every day for two weeks. While it has been quiet for 2 days, I'm trying to be prepared if one or the other complains (not about a specific behavior or job not being done).

I'd do the following:
"Can I give you some feedback? When you complain to me about something that I think I've given you coaching and feedback on, I wonder if you understand my feedback and want to grow to handle this yourself. What can you do differently?"

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

[quote="MsSunshine"]"Can I give you some feedback? When you complain to me about something that I think I've given you coaching and feedback on, I wonder if you understand my feedback and want to grow to handle this yourself. What can you do differently?"[/quote]
I might change complain to "come to me" (complain is an interpretation of their behavior I think) but that is a nice piece of feedback. Thanks for sharing!