Make Contractors Solve Their Own Conflicts

by : Ron Roberts

You've got a headache on your hands. What should you do?

You've got two guys on a crew who are fighting. John doesn't want to work with Mark. Mark doesn't want to listen to John. Their behavior is running off people. Unfortunately, they are also your most skilled workers and you'll have trouble replacing them.

What do you do?

Well, if I'm in your shoes and I can't split them up, I'd do everything I could to get them to see the BIG picture. Which is:

We are all in this together!

Sit these two clowns down and tell them:

"You two are making things stressful for everybody who works with you, for everybody in the office, and for me personally. Sometimes even our client notice.

"Guys, you need to work together. The other members of your crew need you to work together. We all need you to work together.

"You see, we're all in this together. We all sink or swim together.

"When you're acting like stubborn little children, it holds all of us back. It hurts all of our pocketbooks. It forces me to spend time keeping your crew functioning.

"It keeps me from hitting the streets and drumming up new work. The more time I spend playing referee with you two, the less hours you may get. Surely, that's not worth the benefits you guys get from fighting with each other.

"So we need the two of you to work your differences out. If you need to approach me separately and privately, great. But you two need to come together and find a way to work together in roles where the work gets done as we need it to. For yourself, for your crew, and for us in the office.

After meeting with both of them together, meet with each privately. Explore the issues from both sides. Find out what is running through their minds then counteract their behavior by focusing them on professionalism, workmanship and teamwork. Appeal to their pride. Help them get over their pettiness.

Above all else, get them focused on group success. It's the one theme that almost all people respond to.


The thrill of success is very addicting. Try to tap their desire for it.

The most important thing is to GET THEM TO FIX THE PROBLEM THEMSELVES.

When you step in to fix the problem, instead of helping them fix the problem, all you're doing is creating a pattern where you're going to have to step in every time something comes up. You're never going to escape the micromanagement. You'll never be completely free to do what you need to be doing to make your business a success.

Your crews need to solve their own problems. They need to become self managing and mutually accountable. The reality is most workers are drawn to that type of work environment because they're going to be more successful working that way.

So, your real goal is to turn them into a self-managing crew. A crew that needs minimal oversight. A crew that gets work done quickly, properly, and safely. That's your real goal with
your field personnel. Once your crews can take care of themselves, you're off to the races.

That's today's message. Focus on creating teamwork amongst your guys and don't let them put every problem back in your lap. Coach them.

Working these interpersonal conflicts out is not something that comes naturally to many construction workers. They tend to be individuals of few words and questionable people skills. Be prepared to cover the same ground time after time after time.