Ask Barb: Dealing with Recruiter Conflict

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Sep 14, 2011

Dear Barb:

Business is improving, but now I’m dealing with all kinds of conflict with my recruiters.  They have become extremely territorial and I’m beginning to feel like a referee in my own business.  I’m still the top producer in my firm and can’t afford all the time and energy this is taking away from my desk.  Do I just fire these senior prima donnas and start from scratch?

Judy J., Colorado Springs, CO

Dear Judy:

You need to do what is in the best interest of your company. Conflict is frustrating but many of the issues can be avoided by the existence of a Company Policy Manual. Obviously, some problem areas such as derogatory comments about a co-worker, dishonesty, and unfair screening of candidates are not solved by a Policy Manual.

In order for you to handle conflict you must have a reputation for being fair, consistent, and totally objective. If these characteristics do not describe you, then these are areas you need to improve.

In any type of conflict the ultimate goal is to orchestrate a win/win solution. Unfortunately, this is not always possible and concessions must be made. You must remove the personalities involved in the conflict and reach your decision based on the facts presented.

  1. Meet with each person involved individually and let them reveal their version of the facts. Take notes and at the end of the meeting, and recap your understanding.
  2. Bring all parties involved in the conflict in your office and discuss the rules.
    1. When one person is talking, the other must listen.
    2. Any objections should be directed at you, not each other.
    3. You will make the final decision.
  3. Discuss the facts that led up to the conflict, utilizing your notes from the individual meetings. Ask for a confirmation of the accuracy of these facts. Make any changes where necessary.
  4. Allow each person to ask three questions. Questions reveal the real issues and help lead you to the solution. Answer the questions raised again, clarifying your understanding of all issues.
  5. Inform all parties that you understand their point of view, but from your perspective this is how this situation is going to be handled:
    1. Outline your solution.
    2. Explain the reasoning behind your solution.
    3. Stress the importance of moving past this one issue, and rebuilding trust between everyone in the office.
    4. Ask the people involved how they plan to solve the problem. (specific examples)
    5. Explain how a cohesive team is vital to the overall success of your company and the part they play on your team.
    6. Announce you are leaving the room for five minutes and that you would like them to talk, shake hands and then return to work.
  6. In an upcoming morning meeting, this conflict will be discussed with the entire staff. Names and specific details are not discussed. You give an overview of the issue and share your solution. The reason for doing this is that your employees will now have an understanding of how you will react to challenging situations! You may show compassion, great understanding, or possibly even a low tolerance level for certain issues. These are important revelations to the people who work for you.

If a conflict arises that is covered by the Policy Manual, you must always follow those guidelines in your decision-making process. Consistency in your decisions can greatly enhance the level of respect you will earn with your employees. There are several sections that should be included in your Policy Manual. Again, this must be customized to the disciplines, specialties, size, and company culture of your recruiting and staffing firm.

It’s important for you to realize you can’t prevent or control what happens. But you do have 100% control over how you choose to react. Both parties involved in the issue also have the same opportunity… they can choose how they react! This is a skill that all recruiters and managers in our profession need to MASTER!

Would you like to Ask Barb a question? Email her at Each month in The Fordyce Letter print edition, Barbara Bruno answers questions from individuals in the Recruiting Profession. We will bring you some of these Q&A responses from Barb each week on