How managers should resolve conflicts with associates
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Chester OnPoint, the blog of Eric Chester.
When rules are broken in situations that don’t call for immediate termination, gain your composure and think, "Open The Front Door Now (OTFDN)." This is the acronym for a simple formula that helps you address and correct many of the annoying small issues and problematic behaviors of your employees.
Here’s how the formula works:
O — Observe
First, make an observational statement that is rooted in fact, not conjecture. "Hey, Trevor, it’s 10:00 a.m. and you’re not at work." Notice, this statement isn’t accusatory; you’re simply making an observation. See if the associate provides a response as there could be a valid reason for the infraction.
T — Thoughts
If your employee doesn’t respond to your statement of observation, ask them for their thoughts on the matter. "Your weekly report isn’t on my desk as promised, Courtney. Can I get your thoughts on that?" This gives them a chance to show their cards and feel like they’re being heard. Again, do this without any anger that could ignite or escalate an easily resolvable situation.
F — Feedback
This is when you state the policy or practice that’s been violated and the reasoning, or the "why", behind it. "Marcus, we need all shopping carts brought in each night after we close. Those left in the parking are frequently stolen or vandalized." Lasting behavioral changes come about much more quickly when the offender is also made to understand how their failure to comply with the policy affects them.
D — Desire
State your desired expectation — be firm, concise and crystal clear. "From this point on, Jerome and Katie, cell phones will not be allowed on the sales floor at any time. Our associates need to be fully present with each and every customer." Avoid making this kind of statement from a point of weakness. "It would be really great if you could find another time …" or a comment that’s open to interpretation.
N — Next time
Without sounding like you’re issuing a threat, put in place a consequence for an undesired behavior if it’s repeated. "Because reliability is something we value and promote in our brand advertising, we can only schedule those people who can be counted on to be here on time no matter what the traffic or weather conditions are. If this happens again, we will have to find someone for this shift we can rely on." Avoid phrases like, "If I catch you doing this again …" because that turns the problem into a you vs. them scenario.
Position yourself as their coach who wants them to win, but one who has to enforce the consequences of non-compliance.
What unique challenges to conflict resolution do you see in retail environments? What tips would you add to those in the article for store managers around resolving employee conflicts?