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This is not my conflict...

Imagine, you work in a matrix organisation. You have a line manager and a project managers - and you have great working relationships with both of them.

But, these two people don't like each other. They don't talk to each other. They have some conflicts between each other. So, you became their messenger - by accident.

At first, this is ok. No big deal.

But then, over time, the situation becomes more and more tiring, frustrating and annoying. The situation does not improve. For you, the situation becomes more and more uncomfortable. For the managers, nothing really changes.

Resolving the Conflict: So, what can you do?

  1. Realise: this is not your conflict. It is not your job and responsibility to compensate conflicts of people who are several levels more senior than you.

  2.  Reflect: what exactly is bothering you. What are the consequences for YOU, and then for your team/project/department ... due to this situation. This could be frustration, or more time and effort in getting decisions - hence more required time for getting things done - hence more costs....

  3. Resolve: maybe you have already suggested to these managers, that they could talk to each other. If not, this can be a first step. In the second step, share with them the consequences:

Example 1: Feedback-Burger

Personal and positive introduction. Feedback. Positive Outlook (with Consequence)

Positive Intro: Hello "name...of the manager". I really enjoy working with you. I constantly learn and growth with your leadership.

Feedback: However, the ongoing situation between you and "name of the other manager" is very frustrating and time consuming for me. It causes stress and leads to more effort and costs in the project. I do not see it as my responsibility to compensate the conflicts you have between you. As of today, I will not be your messenger anymore. I trust, that you respect my decision.

Positive Outlook: I am really looking forward working with you on the next challenges in a successful and efficient manner.

Example 2: Involving allies / support (aka escalation)

Look within your network, your colleagues you trust: you may find some senior colleagues, who can support you in this situation and act as a moderator. Before you set up a moderation meeting, I would highly recommend that you inform both parties, that this situation needs to get off your table - completely and forever.

Be transparent with both of them and share that this situation is hindering you in your work and that you want the situation to change.

(I would recommend a clear, polite and firm email to both of them, so you also have this situation documented in writing.)

You see two options:

  1. They resolve the situation themselves or

  2. You organise a resolution meeting with a senior colleague as a moderator.

The same consequence: you stop being the messenger.

Remember: the two managers may not be aware of the consequences for your and for your team. They may use you as a messenger, just be cause it is comfortable and easy for them and without realising the consequences.

This was a topic, we discussed in my project excellence coaching program:

If you want to know more about it, jump on my message list on this website and you will get informed when the doors open in September for the second time!

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