Handling the Interpersonal Conflicts of Your Event Management Team

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

It’s the law of human interaction – whenever a group of people work in close proximity to one another for any extended period of time, conflicts will arise. Naturally, event management teams find themselves in conflict from time-to-time, particularly given their propensity for working in a high-pressure environment. As an event manager, it’s your job to step in and resolve interpersonal conflict should it surface. Fail to do this, and your team could splinter apart; it’s toxic and impossible to work effectively if your team despises one another.

Recognize That There’s A Problem

Is there a terse, uncomfortable silence whenever two particular individuals are in the same room? Do you notice more anger, stress, and unhappiness in your team members than you’re used to seeing? Are two people throwing hostile quips at one another? Knowing there’s a problem is the first step toward resolving conflict. We’ll assume you already have the necessary people skills required to recognize there’s something brewing.

Know When To Let Someone Else Handle It

As a management professional, you know certain tasks should be delegated to others. That’s doubly true for any sort of conflict within your team. Even if you’re aware there’s a problem, you need to step back and ask yourself if you need to be personally involved – just how big is this conflict, and what will happen if it goes unresolved, and is someone else in your organization responsible for the conflicting parties? Use your best judgment.

For example, a minor argument between volunteers isn’t worth the time, let alone the stress – ignore it or have the volunteer coordinator address it. Move on to bigger things. A falling out or conflict of egos between two guest panelists is more the sort of thing you yourself may need to finesse. Unless it’s of great concern to you, you might let it runs it’s course, or ask their closest management colleague to step in.

Consider this: is there a leader on your management team whom your staff naturally trusts and respects? They may be the best person to handle an issue.

Listen To Both Sides Of The Story Independently

Assuming you’ve decided to handle a conflict personally, your first step is to get each party alone and listen to their side of the story. Make it clear that you’re acting as a neutral third party. Listen to them in an open and non-judgmental fashion. Be absolutely certain you understand the perspective of everyone involved before you move forward. If you don’t have trust and clarity, that’ll put a serious damper on any attempts to resolve issues.

Hint: force people to stick to facts. This helps narrow the focus, and often helps people who are emotionally invested better understand a competing perspective.

Sit Everyone Down For A Chat

Now that you know where everyone’s coming from, and potentially everyone sees their oppositions’ point-of-view more clearly, it’s time to have a sit-down. Get all the people who’ve been squabbling with each other into a room, and explain your perception of the situation. Again, make sure you remain calm and thorough, engaging each person and giving them a chance to speak their mind.

The goal is to reach a mutual understanding. Try explaining each side’s perspective to the other, from your neutral vantage point. You may discover a mere apology could be all that’s required – though things are rarely so simple. There may be required steps that you outline and get everyone committed to meeting these benchmarks. Chances are high you’ll gather more than once to take stock of the situation.

Ultimately, your drawing a clear picture of what people want, and sharing a game plan on how best to meet everyone’s needs without compromising those of your company and clients.

Take Further Action

If it becomes clear that simply talking about the problem isn’t going to solve it – for example, if one of the parties is clearly in the wrong – it may be time to do something a little more extreme. In the worst-case scenario, you might need to remove one side of the conflict from your team.

Consider this: firing someone may be the proper solution, but other courses of action like a reshuffling of roles may solve a simple personality conflict.

Closing note, in cases involving racism or sexual harassment, termination is often your go-to solution. These situations can call for swift action, but take a moment and seek legal consul as well. You want to do the right thing, correctly!