Accounting manager as referee? Many accounting and finance bosses have added conflict resolution to their job responsibilities, as they wind up mediating disputes among members of their staff.
In a new survey from staffing firm Accountemps, finance executives said they spend 15 percent of their time – or six hours a week – on average managing work conflicts. The results reflect similar studies conducted as far back as 1991.
Mike Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps, said the more time managers spend reducing friction between co-workers, the less time they have for tackling business priorities.
Firm leaders should proactively look for ways to build rapport among colleagues to help prevent problems before they surface, he added.
“It’s unrealistic to expect workers to get along all the time,” Steinitz said in a written statement. “But not every issue needs to be escalated to management. Employees who can properly handle conflict with tact and diplomacy are in a better position to assume leadership roles in the future.”
Accountemps offers the following four ways accountants and other professionals can handle work conflicts with grace:
1. Show empathy. Not everyone is going to see eye-to-eye. Make an effort to understand the situation from your co-worker’s point of view. Listening to his or her opinion may help you to more quickly settle the dispute.
2. Act quickly. Try to handle the disagreement in a timely manner. Conflicts can disrupt others, so don’t let issues fester.
3. Bring in a third party. If there is no resolution in sight, ask a manager or human resources representative to mediate. This person can offer an outside perspective and recommend a productive way forward.
4. Don’t hold a grudge. Once you’ve come to an agreement, make sure you and your colleague put the matter to rest. Learn from the experience and discuss how you can avoid potential issues in the future.