Navigating Fleet Staff Conflict

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Release date: 7/19/2018

Fleet and mobility professionals frequently find themselves in the position of mediator and conflict mitigation manager, with two employees on either side and at odds with each other. How do you, as the fleet subject matter expert, resolve these human resources-related situations, and why is it important that you learn to do so?

NAFA Past President Chris Amos, CAFM®, has the answer. “At its core, fleet management is a resource management discipline and the most important resource we have are our employees,” said Amos, Commissioner of Equipment Services for the City of St. Louis, Missouri. “Workplace productivity is negatively impacted by anything that distracts from people doing their job.”

Some distractions from the day-today work regimen can be presented to build morale, teamwork, and a sense of commitment to the group, Amos explained. Some simply waste time when an employee is supposed to be working
on accomplishing the organizational mission. “However, actual conflicts are distractions with no upside. The more cohesive a group is, the more conflict seems to disrupt.”

Will It Work Itself Out?

An age-old method for dealing with such conflicts, both at home and in the office, has been to ignore it, expecting
the interpersonal strain will go away on its own.

NAFA Regular Member J.J. Keig, CAFM®, Corporate Fleet Manager for the Americas with CBRE Inc., strongly rejects
this approach because it almost never works. “Any negative situation will always become worse, and never heal itself.
Unresolved issues create and maintain a negative and toxic environment in which morale and productivity both suffer. This will inevitably spread into overlapping work circles with the potential of farreaching gossip lines, many of which will
distort the facts and events.”

“I’m a firm believer in exercising good rumor control so at least employees aren’t stressed by imaginary worries,”
said Amos. However, quashing the chatter can only address one of several aspects of poor communication, which Amos identified as the common denominator of many workplace conflicts.

Understanding the overall demeanor of the team is important and, at times, the manager will be called upon to intervene when there’s staff friction. Such preemptive actions can keep simmering tensions from jumping to the next level, but not always. How should managers approach the problem: with the “soft peace” of persuasion or the “hard peace” of immediately putting one’s foot down?

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