The #1 thing I wish someone had warned me about when I became a manager was how to handle disagreement between employees.

The first time one of my direct reports came to me with a complaint about another person in our department, I ignored the issue because I thought it would just go away. It didn’t and pretty soon it spread like wildfire throughout the company. In retrospect I would have helped the complaining employee create a plan to talk with their fellow coworker and resolve the issue.

Over the years as I’ve worked with new managers, they’ve shared a similar frustration. When someone comes to you with a complaint about another person in your department or organization avoid playing intermediary. Unless you are a trained mediator involving yourself as the go between with only make the situation worse.

Here’s what you can do. Listen with the intent to understand by asking questions that start with what or how. A few examples are: what makes you feel that way? How does this impact your ability to get your job done? What will you do to resolve this issue? Then ask them when they will talk to the person. If they say they aren’t or don’t want to help them recognize the only way the problem will be resolved is if they talk to the person. Walk them through the BECAUSE mnemonic I’ve created.

Behavior – start with a statement that describes the behavior

Effect – describe the effect of the behavior

Change – what needs to be different in the future

Actively listen to the other person

Understand – seek to understand the other person

Solution – agree on next steps

Express confidence in their ability to make the change.

Would you like a detailed worksheet? Respond here and its yours.