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  Dealing With Conflict?
Two moderators on my team are having personality clashes. Can you give me tips on how to help deal with their conflicts?

When working/volunteering with a diverse group of people it is often common that individuals will clash based on personality or other issues unrelated to their work. As a manager you want such clashes to be "nipped in the bud" and not create bad feelings for the people concerned nor for the group as a whole. Your starting point is to find out in as clear and concise a way as possible what the core issues are. This requires both parties to be encouraged to engage in a constructive dialogue to list out their issues and concerns. This can be done via e-mail or if practical in an online chat room. At this stage of the conflict, it is crucial that the two individuals do make efforts to resolve the problems independently and between themselves. They should also know that mangement is there to support and assist if necessary.

Here are a few tips and you may find that it would be helpful to share these with your entire moderation staff:


First, it is important that the parties involved remember that it is best to deal constructively with the individual they are having conflict with, concentrating on the issues which need resolving and not implicating other people.

Any distraction from the core issues will make resolution of the conflict more complicated and painful. Similiarly, the more people involved in the conflict, the more likely it will be that the resolution process will become muddied and difficult to sustain. The individuals must be made aware that they should restrict their dialogue to the matters at hand, from their own perspective rather than from other people's viewpoint.


When approaching any resolution the individuals concerned should try to place themselves in the other person's shoes, respect their viewpoint even if they don't understand it and be open minded. Within this process there must be an understanding that mistakes do happen and that there are emotions on both sides. A respect for the other person will help set a tone of dignity and decorum, which will assist in identifying a) why the conflicts have happened, b) how those insights should help in resolving them, and c) how negotiated compromises can be formed.

For example one could say, "I understand that there may be difficulties or that your job may make it difficult for you to make it to your shift on time. With this in mind, is it possible to work out a compromise as I have family that relies on me to be through with my shift on time."

As opposed to,

"You are really inconsiderate not making your shift on time. Because of you, my family is put out because they expect me to be done with my shift at a certain time. When you are late then I am late."


Individuals in a conflict resolution should try to approach the problem with solutions in mind. In this sense each participant should be invitied to express "I think this will help.." ideas or make "I would like to achieve..." statements. This will assist in resolving the conflict in an expedited fashion. Both parties should be made aware that mediation may not achieve those solutions, but that it will help to form a compromise which will ensure that there is closure to the conflict.


Parties in conflict resolution should be clear that there is no "winner" and no "loser". It is important that both parties feel that finding a way to resolve the conflict is winning, not the achievement of particular goals or triumph of their own agenda.


The focus of any conflict resolution should be on the issues which have arisen and made the resolution necessary. If the focus is upon personalities or individual circumstances then it is more than likely that the process will perpetuate those problems rather than resolve them.


Most importantly, individuals in conflict should remember to treat the other party as they would want to be treated themselves. A respectful tone and approach maintains avenues for resolving difficulties.

You may find that there are people that will never be able to get along with one another no matter the efforts made. If the individuals resolve within themselves to taking the high road rather than looking for issues to be upset about, they will be able to work in a more positive manner and environment.

If for some reason the above does not provide resolution and continued conflicts are impeding their ability to work, their next best option is to escalate the issues to management for assistance. It may be required that an online mediation take place where both parties are invited into a chat room with a neutral party (mediator) to discuss the issues and jointly decide on the most appropriate solutions. In the next Community Answer we will look at how mediation can be instigated and performed by community managers.

- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas
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