An inevitable part of trucking is conflict. Conflict can come from almost anywhere and is never pleasant. Sometimes conflict can even lead to driver turnover. Understanding conflicts and its causes helps to reduce their frequency and avoid unnecessary turnover among your drivers.
You’ve probably had your managers go through a ton of training on how to handle crises. They have pored over handbooks and rules on proper responses to employees. They know all of that already. What is just as important to remember, however, is that conflicts are caused by people. Leaders in your company need to understand this concept is critical in your attempts to solve problems.
Conflicts most often occur for one simple reason: people are different. People have different thoughts on political, social and economic issues. We have different belief systems, values, and interests. We have different education and training. All of these factors lead to people who communicate and think differently. Preparation for every person and their problems is impossible, so it’s necessary that managers remember that every driver and their needs are different.
If there was a perfect way to prepare a manager for every conflict, that person would be a billionaire. The best you can do is breakdown problem solving for your managers. There’s specialized training available to help managers with learning to handle conflicts, such as AvatarFleet’s safe driving course available on-line. This is a great way to make managers more aware and clear about how to approach problems with drivers. A mentoring system for your managers, just like we suggest for your drivers, is another great idea. This allows managers to bounce questions off of an experienced leader and also, at first, someone to assist in solving conflicts in the best possible way.
Ultimately, what matters most is how your managers respond to a conflict. Wherever it originates or who’s involved, if a manager follows the same basic process of problem-solving. If they do so, they will be more effective at solving and even preventing conflict. Plus, your drivers will understand and respect that consistent effort. These are the basic techniques we suggest and discuss more specifically in our training videos:
An obvious one, but we don’t always listen entirely. There is a difference between listening and active listening. Your managers want to do the latter because it ensures you know the whole problem. Also, it shows the other person they actually care about the problem.
A common issue in problem-solving is coming off too biased or condescending. It’s essential that you not take sides or push your own interest in the matter too hard.
Determine the Problem
Again, an obvious one, but the real issue can sometimes by clouded by the people involved. Avoid finger pointing and other parts of the conflict and focus on the problem itself, whether that’s poor dispatch or messed up paperwork.
Diffuse the Situation Through a Third Party
If at all possible, it might be wise to bring in a third person aware of the problem who can help solve it. This reduces the risk of heated confrontation and three heads are better than two. This doesn’t mean you should shift blame or deflect the problem to someone else, though. The manager always has a responsibility to try and help, and if they aren’t able to solve the problem, to explain why.
Calmly explain your reasoning or point of view and simply state that you won’t debate the situation while everyone is angry. A manager really needs to learn patience and empathy to do this right. You don’t want a conflict to blow up into a bigger one or become multiple conflicts.
If your managers can practice these techniques in their attempts to solve problems, you will have less driver turnover because quite simply they will have fewer reasons to leave. If you want to have more specific advice, you might be interested in AvatarFleet’s Professional Driver Training, useful for drivers and managers alike.