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Conflict Resolution in Recruitment - Part Two

In part one, we highlighted the strain between architects and engineers. In part two, I will look at a conflict situation in the Recruitment industry.

Situation: A Group CEO of a global Recruitment company asked me to help a conflict situation. One of his Director’s and her two managers were not getting on. The Director was pushing her direct reports for more data and information. The Director’s was also feeling pressure. Her boss was demanding more business-critical data to improve their decision-making process. The Director and her managers were in a difficult conflict situation.


I started with several low-key informal meetings with all parties. I focussed on being empathetic and sensitive as tensions were high. The Director’s frustration was around not getting the right information quick enough. In contrast, the close attention was creating lots of office tension and frustration. Morale was low. They perceived it as micromanagement, not allowing them to work in their normal way. The level of conflict avoidance was high across both parties. The relationships had become strained and at times unbearable.

After these initial meetings, several in-depth interviews took place. The two managers also blamed the Director for one of their colleagues leaving. Neither party spoke about their frustrations and everyone was unhappy. The Director was also upset at receiving a resignation letter from one of the managers. From her perspective, she couldn’t understand this treatment by her direct report. Her boss was scrutinising her business and also asking questions about her leadership. She was under severe stress. In several group meetings, we were able to unravel some of the conflict situation that were at play.

What was going on in emotional terms? Both parties began to see how they were looking at the situation. Their attitudes and behaviours were having unintended consequences for both parties. The Director felt cold-shouldered by her managers. While the Director was stopping the managers do their jobs. Losing one of their closest colleagues had also made things difficult between them. They began to see that it wasn’t the Director’s fault. Both their differences and emotions were all to see. From frustration to anger and even humour.

The Director had thrown herself into work. Stress of her father's serious illness was impacting her more than she thought. She was unaware that work was a distraction. This was the first time she had spoken about what had been going on in her personal life in the workplace. It was great to see her become more insightful as she considered why she was pushing her managers so hard. Being more open was good for her. Although the process made her feel exposed and vulnerable about what she was doing. Afraid of what the process was going to yield. She became more transactional to cope with the stress from her boss. She perceived that she would get more stability from it. She hadn’t realised she was impacting her managers.


The lessons for everyone here was immeasurable. The uncomfortable truths came to light and all colleagues were in a better place as a result. The Director became more aware of how her father’s illness was impacting her judgement. Her greater self-awareness and authenticity was enabling for her managers. They began to soften and gain greater empathy for her personal situation. They expressed sorrow for ignoring her and making life difficult. They also understood that their close colleague left for other circumstances. The reduction in fear, meant they became happier. They put an action plan together to:

  • increase the level of openness across her team and the office to change the culture of scrutiny

  • provide an executive coaching programme

  • workout how the office could work better and recover its position

  • build a renewed sense of collaboration

  • kick-off weekly meetings included the managers, making them much happier. (the Manager withdrew her resignation to the delight of the Director)

  • regular off site breakfast meetings in order to improve relations and debrief their teams better

  • the managers were autonomous. They gave immediate feedback when needed to

  • the profitability of the office increased. All parties grew in confidence as they became more open. There were more discussions about the challenges and a better focus on team success

In conclusion, conflict avoidance effects profitability and morale. Both parties became rigid and stuck. Greater openness made them pay attention to their differences. They understood their misalignment better. They appeared to like and respect each other more. Talking through difficult issues became the birthplace for a better way of working.


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