Conflict between Key Executives - High Stress - Failing Relationships

Resolving Workplace Conflict

Case Studies

The Client:

The Chief Executive of a medium sized privately owned business operating in a high pressure, competitive business environment.

The Brief:

Two key Executives had been engaged in conflict over a protracted period.  The Chief Executive had sought to address concerns that each Executive had raised about the other over a period of time.  However the situation was worsening.  The Chief Executive saw increasing conflict with increasing personal distress to both parties.  The problems were affecting other team members.  

The individuals requested a skilled facilitator to assist them and we were engaged to work through the issue with the Chief Executive and the executives.

Our Response:

We met individually with each Executive and the Chief Executive to clarify and discuss concerns, discuss our role and establish a resolution process.  Working individually we assisted each party to identify and articulate their concerns and how they saw the issues producing conflict.  We also explored the outcomes each person was seeking to achieve through this process.

There was clearly goodwill and mutual respect between the parties notwithstanding significant real difficulties and increasing strain which was undermining trust and the general working relationship.

We convened a series of meetings including a mix of individual and group meetings which we facilitated to work through concerns.  These included the Chief Executive as he worked closely with both Executives and the roles undertaken by the three were interlinked requiring all to be aligned in their expectations and working relationships.

Through the process the parties got to appreciate concerns from all perspectives.  There was the opportunity to clarify and explore perceptions and different behaviours and operating styles.  All parties felt heard and acknowledged by others.  All parties were able to maintain a problem solving frame, notwithstanding high emotions at times.

A set of agreed actions were put in place.  This involved changes each party agreed to adopt to address issues that had been raised.  Additional work was done to address role clarity concerns which had emerged as a key underlying element of the conflict.

The Results:

From a very strained beginning the process followed enabled all parties to rebuild their confidence in one another and dispel misconceptions that had arisen.  A willingness to re-establish trust and give others the benefit of the doubt was achieved.

Expectations of all parties of one another were clarified including revisiting roles, accountabilities and interdependencies.  The Chief Executive adjusted his approach to how he had been supporting the Executives and also how he had been addressing conflict when it occurred in this case.

We were given very positive feedback about the role we played, specifically providing a robust process, our independence, ensuring fair treatment for all, and the ability to maintain the confidence of all parties throughout, keeping people talking and working constructively through difficult discussions.

All Executives reported that their stress levels had been alleviated and a level of relief at having worked through the concerns and reaching positive outcomes personally and professionally.  All reported learnings and reflections that they would take forward.

The working relationships were re-established and strengthened as a result of improved communication and a constructive approach taken to recognnising and resolving concerns.

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