Jun 13, 2018

How to Manage Conflict When Working With Third Party Contractors

Sometimes, things just don’t work out. It might not be anyone’s fault -- or perhaps you feel strongly that it is entirely someone’s fault! -- but regardless, regularly working with outside contractors brings about the occasional conflict.

But should a conflict arise, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a situation is beyond all repair. Most often, it’s a result of miscommunication that can easily be avoided. Before throwing in the towel completely, follow these 5 steps that help resolve conflicts and turn things around.

Step 1. Identify Where the Breakdown Occurred

Before you jump to any conclusions, be sure you thoroughly understand the circumstances. Why, exactly, has a negative situation arisen? Was it a result of one specific incident -- or was there an ongoing sense of dissatisfaction (for example, related to the quality of work to date)? For which tasks was the contractor hired, and how has he or she failed to meet that aim?

Before rushing into any action, a smart first step is to clarify the facts and assess the events that have taken place.

Step 2. View Conflict from a Different Perspective

When involved in a dispute, it can be all too easy to get caught up in the organization’s side of the conflict. But before you call it quits with your contractors, try to view things from their perspective.

Could there be a factor that is hampering their ability to work to the highest standards? Was that person properly qualified for the job, and has he or she been correctly trained? Were they provided with the tools, equipment and information they needed?

Stop and think about if there is something your hiring organization should have been doing, or could be doing moving forward, to help contracted workers succeed in their roles. Then offer advice, guidance and resources to help them improve.

Step 3. Encourage Open Communication

According to conflict theory experts, the single most important method to conflict resolution is open communication. Conflicts must be addressed quickly and directly. Avoidance only delays conflict, leaving unresolved issues bubbling below the surface to appear at the worst possible time.  

For contractors who spend most of their time “on the floor” or “in the field,” this isn’t as simple as walking down the hallway to knock on a manager’s door. Digital tools, especially software tools with in-app messaging capabilities, should be in place to keep everyone on the same page and alert contractors to potential issues. (Also read 6 Ways to Improve Communication with Contractors.)

Step 4. Take Action

If you’ve gone through these steps and still feel that a breach of targets, costs or agreements has occurred, it may be time for your organization to control or cease the activity in question. This may come in the form of financial penalties, disciplinary action or dismissal. Terms and consequences for failure to meet certain standards or deadlines should have been formally outlined (and digitally documented) or contracted before work began. Here again, software can help you stay organized with a digital trail of events, activities and communications that have occurred up to the point where action is required.

Step 5. Empower Your Organization

Hopefully, by following these steps you’ll be able to minimize any disturbances before they escalate. Once a problem is settled, it’s important to prevent further similar challenges from arising -- whether it’s finding smarter ways to track and monitor people and projects, or providing your contractors with the communication channels they need to be successful. When conflicts occur that do not have a happy ending, ask yourself how you can implement a smarter approach for your next contractor hire.

Curious How our Software Can Help?

Contractor Compliance helps hiring organizations source the right contractors, then connect and communicate with them once work is underway. If your company could benefit from finding suitable workers and managing compliance for multiple third parties, book your free demo today and we’ll customize it to meet your organization’s specific needs.

About the Author

Addison Moore
Director of Marketing at Contractor Compliance

Addison has spent the last four years learning from and participating in the Health & Safety community. He has travelled to numerous EHS conferences, trade shows and events with the intention of helping organizations with their contractor management programs. Addison is also responsible for curating the collection of white papers, case studies and eBooks that provide real world insights into the workforce safety space.

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