How HR Can Help Resolve a Conflict

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

I have a question about how to resolve conflicts between a manager and a team member. Is this a role that is appropriate for HR, or should the conflict be resolved by the MOR (Manager Once Removed)?

I am a big fan of the HR role. HR roles help bring discipline to all those functions that involve humans. And, many times, our problems are created by a lack of discipline.

  • Lack of discipline in the hiring process
  • Lack of discipline in context setting
  • Lack of discipline in the delegation process
  • Lack of discipline in the planning process
  • Lack of discipline in project reviews
  • Lack of discipline in effectiveness reviews

And, where HR can help in discipline, accountability still rests with the manager and the MOR.

You asked about a conflict between the manager and the team member. In all situations, I need more detail, but I assume most conflicts would be about work method or priority conflict. In some cases, there may be a conflict related to underperformance or misbehavior. In all cases, it is still the manager and the MOR who are accountable for resolving the conflict.

If the conflict is about work method or priority conflict, the team member is accountable for giving best advice. The manager is accountable to consider the advice and make an appropriate decision. If the two are still at loggerheads, the manager should seek advice and coaching from their manager (the MOR). Either manager can seek advice from the HR professional, but the manager and MOR are accountable for the decision and the consequence of that decision.

If the conflict is about underperformance or misbehavior, the discussion is different, but the accountability is the same. Elliott Jaques always traced underperformance or misbehavior to one of these four absolutes –

  • Capability
  • Skill (technical knowledge and practice)
  • Interest or passion for the work, value for the work
  • Required behaviors (contracted behaviors, habits or culture)

Elliott would also expect the manager to know which of these four absolutes contributed to the underperformance or misbehavior. The underlying cause might lead to more training, coaching or de-selection.

No matter the resolution, while HR can assist in the discipline of the process, the accountability remains with the manager and the MOR.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *