When to approach the boss about team conflict

When to approach the boss about team conflict

When should I go to my boss about a problem I'm having with a co-worker?
Dec 01, 2008

Cindy Adams
You should first approach the co-worker you're having trouble with, says Cindy Adams, MSW, PhD, a veterinary communication professor at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Depending on the situation, you may not need to involve your boss. This is especially helpful when the issue is of a personal nature, like poor hygiene or attitude, she says.

Respect your team member's feelings and privacy by discussing your concern with him or her alone. Chances are, your co-worker may not even know a problem exists. A five-minute conversation—if done diplomatically—could resolve the conflict. Pulling the employee aside for a private talk also saves him or her fromthe added embarrassment of involving others.

Of course, there are more complicated situations. The person may resist talking about the matter, whether personal or work-related. He or she may deny the problem and blow you off entirely. If either of these is the case, then it's time to enlist support from your boss. But let your co-worker know that you're taking the issue to your manager or the owner, so it's not a surprise, Adams says. And let your boss know that you've already approached the co-worker and he or she wasn't receptive.

If your fellow team member is open to sorting things out, but the two of you just can't see eye to eye, Adams says this is another scenario that warrants seeking help from an outside party. But don't do so alone—ask for your co-worker's opinion. You should mutually decide on who you'll turn to for guidance, she says, because it's a baby step toward joint problem solving.