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How to solve a conflict between two team members

Conflict solving
Dev Processes
One-on-one
Collaboration
Toxic atmospheres

6 December, 2017

In order to solve an ongoing conflict between two engineers over a technical solution, Nikhil organizes a meeting with them and asks them to think about the original problem.

Problem

Two engineers in my team were arguing about a technical decision, and one of them was really concerned, as he felt that his decisions were not being taken into account at work. They couldn't do any further work on the code due to their disagreement. During the one-on-ones I regularly had with each of my engineers, they both mentioned that this project was not moving forward because of a disagreement, and I decided to intervene.

Actions taken

I organized a meeting with both of the engineers, and asked both of them to give their side of the story. Then, I advised them to take a step back, and asked them to state the original problem and list all the assumptions they had about it. Through this process, I helped them see which parts they agreed on, and then we collectively tried to solve this problem. The final solution was not a compromise between their two suggestions, but instead was really a new solution found by both of them. They now work very well together.

Lessons learned

I learned two things from this. Firstly, it is very important to have a good overview of what's going on in your team. Thanks to regular one-on-ones I managed to identify this potentially problematic issue early and was able to solve it before it became worse. Secondly, as managers, we don't have all the answers, and shouldn't try to come into a disagreement with a solution in mind. It is better to help our engineers arrive at the solution, so that they feel ownership over it, and so they buy into the solution.


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