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Conflict Teamwork

Most of the departments under me work well together, but there are two that do not get along. I have worked with the department managers on this problem, but to no avail. We have brought these employees together specifically to improve their working relationship, but all they do is bicker. How do we get them to work as a team?

When employees seem to focus more on screams than teams, the first step is to look at the departmental leadership, just as you have done. Be sure to look for any fundamental disagreements between these leaders, as they can easily spill over and undermine cooperation.

It is also important to see if there are structural factors causing problems between these departments. For example, does the company have any competitive programs or contests that may inadvertently place these departments in conflict with each other? In this regard, it is helpful to consider some incentives for cooperation between these departments.

There is an obvious need to bring the employees together, but not in an unstructured name-calling event. Rather, there should be some formal team building exercises, and one task should be for these employees to jointly develop a listing of the difficulties between their departments, as well as to formulate and commit to a strategy to resolve them.

As a side note, some managers have food available during these types of sessions, with the theory being that employees are less likely to fight when they are being fed. This may not work in all cases, but it is definitely food for thought.

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