A Handy 5-Step Formula to Resolve Conflict with Your Employees

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When rules are broken in situations that don’t call for immediate termination, gain your composure and think “Open The Front Door Now.”

This is the acronym for a simple formula that helps you address — and correct — many of the annoying small issues and problematic behaviors of your employees. Treating these problems according to the OTFDN formula will get them back on your team.

Here’s how the formula works:

O — Observe

First, make an observational statement that is rooted in fact, not conjecture. “Hey, Trevor, it’s 8:25 am and you’re just getting to your desk…”

Notice, this statement isn’t accusatory — you’re simply making an observation.

Pause briefly at this point to see if they inject a response as there could be a valid reason for the infraction, e.g. “Yes, but as I mentioned to you after the staff meeting on the 15th, this is the week that my ex-wife is out-of-town and I have to take my son to day care. You assured me that this was OK.”

T — Thoughts

If your employee doesn’t respond to your statement of observation, ask them for their thoughts on the matter. “Your weekly report isn’t on my desk as promised, Courtney. Can I get your thoughts on that?

This gives them a chance to show their cards and feel like they’re being heard. Again, do this without any anger that could ignite or escalate an easily resolvable situation.

It’s critically important to allow them to make their case before moving forward.

F — Feedback

This is when you state the policy or practice that’s been violated and the reasoning — or the “why” — behind it. “Marcus, we need all shopping carts brought in each night after we close. Those that are left in the parking are frequently stolen or vandalized.

Lasting behavioral changes come about much more quickly when the offender is also made to understand how their failure to comply with the policy affects them, e.g. “…replacing and repairing those carts costs our company a fortune and, as a result, it leaves us with less money to provide raises for our employees.

D — Desire

This step gives you the platform to state your desired expectation. “From this point on, Jerome and Katie, cell phones will not be allowed on the sales floor at any time. Our associates need to be fully present with each and every customer.”

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Avoid making this kind of statement from a point of weakness. “It would be really great if you could find another time…” or a comment that’s open to interpretation, like “If it looks like a customer has a question, then please put your phone away.”

Always be firm, concise, and so crystal clear that no one could possibly misinterpret the rule.

N — Next time

Without sounding like you’re issuing a threat, put in place a consequence for an undesired behavior if it’s repeated. “Because reliability is something we value and promote in our brand advertising, we can only schedule those people who can be counted on to be here on time no matter what the traffic or weather conditions are. If this happens again, we will have to find someone for this shift we can rely on.

Avoid phrases like “If I see you…” or “If I catch you doing this again…” because that turns the problem into a YOU vs. THEM scenario. Instead, position yourself as their coach who wants them to win while they are at work, but has to enforce the consequences of non-compliance for the sake of the company and in fairness to their co-workers.

ON POINT – The OTFDN formula is not a fail-safe tactic that works in all situations.

However, used strategically and without anger or emotion, you can “Open The Front Door Now” and quickly correct many of the nagging problems and issues that undermine an otherwise productive and profitable workplace.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s blog Chester on Point

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at EricChester.com and follow him at @eric_chester

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