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If your employees routinely come to you with complaints about each other-and you think it's your job to resolve their conflicts—it may be time to "push back." When you tell them to quit bellyaching and deal with interpersonal conflicts on their own before they come to you, you have more time to focus on your work-and you help them develop the ability to handle workplace conflicts.
Managers who don't push back falsely assume that problem solving calls for a top-down approach or intervention. It doesn't. You can assert your authority by refusing to let them unload their conflicts on you. Additionally, if you confront one employee with another's complaints, you'll be seen as "taking sides," and if you take sides often enough, you'll be perceived as biased in favor of certain employees, which undermines your authority. And even more important, by pushing back, you help them improve their own problem-solving skills, instead of encouraging their dependence on you.
There's no question that coaching employees to solve their own problems will initially take more time and energy than handling the conflict yourself. But in the long term, you'll create a work environment where conflict management is seen as everyone's obligation, not just your problem. Here are eight tips to get you started.
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