Defusing conflict

In the war for talent, there’s no room for skirmishes among the team.

October 18, 2012
By the AICPA Private Companies Practice Section

During her speaking engagements across the country, consultant Rita Keller of Keller Advisors always asks about firms’ hiring plans. “Every firm in the room is looking for talent,” she says. After shedding staff or freezing hiring during the worst of the recession, firms have been reminded of the importance of high-quality staff, and they’re working hard to find or keep standouts.
As practitioners take part in what Keller is calling “the war for talent,” it’s more important than ever not only to hire but also to keep the top talent. Even in an uncertain economy, Keller reports seeing a renewed scramble for the best, which means firms may find their people being lured away ever more frequently. That competition comes at a particularly bad time, Keller says. “I am hearing that staff are tired of waiting on raises,” she reports. “They’ve been patient during the down economy, but now they are ready to make a move if necessary.”

Managing conflict
Addressing internal discord is one concern for firms seeking to keep staff productive, motivated, and loyal. According to Jennifer Wilson of ConvergenceCoaching, a step-by-step conflict management methodology can help practitioners enhance their skills. The steps are:

  • Define. Acknowledge that the conflict exists and begin to explore your views for the potential reasons behind it.
  • Commit to discuss. Set up a time to talk about the conflict with the appropriate parties.
  • Prepare. Outline, preferably in writing, your view of the situation without assigning blame. Consider the possible or real consequences and potential solutions.
  • Share. Meet with those involved and explain your observations and how they differed from your expectations.
  • Listen. Allow the other people involved to share their perspective.
  • Cover the consequences. Talk about the impact on others, such as co-workers or clients, and your commitment to a collaborative solution.
  • Develop a solution. Ask the other person for possible resolutions, and offer your own ideas.
  • Document. Send the other person involved in the conflict a brief email that outlines the plan to address the problem and ask him or her to respond with any comments or questions to ensure complete understanding.

Practitioners who find themselves the general in their firm’s war for talent can use these tips to address the counterproductive conflicts that may arise due to economic pressures or everyday clashes.

Rate this article 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor). Send your responses here.

Note: Both Keller and Wilson will be among the featured speakers at the AICPA PCPS Human Capital Forum, which will take place in San Antonio, Texas, on Nov. 8 and 9. The forum is designed to help practitioners identify what they’re up against and begin to create or enhance an effective human resource strategy