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Ways to deal with two subordinates who clash with each other

Every now and then a general counsel, or any in-house lawyer who manages people, has two reports who just rub each other the wrong way. Here are six techniques for how to reduce the angst.

a) Separate the feuders, so that they do not have to interact or so that their interactions are minimized.

b) Coach the quarrelers, so that they at least recognize what triggers tension and can draw on a broader range of appeasement or reconciliation methods (See my post of June 9, 2007on coaching and seven references cited.).

c) Another choice is for the boss to intervene with some conflict management steps (See my post of Aug. 2, 2006 on stress and conflict management training.).

d) Fourth, clarify ambiguous or over-lapping roles and responsibilities and thereby calm the storms that are caused by power vacuums and power grabs (See my post of June 21, 2006 on position descriptions.).

e) Consider 360 degree feedback for the two, so that they appreciate better how others view their strife (See my posts of Jan. 1, 2006 for a review of the tool; and Sept. 27, 2005 for a partial 360 tool.).

f) Bring someone else in to help, such as a deputy general counsel, HR representative or law department administrator (See my post of Oct. 12, 2006 about passing on the problem.).

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