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What HR can learn from the Hamilton-Rosberg dispute

10th Jun 2014
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The Hamilton-Rosberg falling out has been all over the front pages in recent weeks, but beneath the tabloid drama is a great example of how to manage two conflicting employees.

Imagine that Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are two members of your team. They are both highly competitive individuals, and strive to be the number one performer not just within your team, but within the entire organisation.

Your two competitive employees have both made terrific starts to the year, and are the top performers in your team, and in the entire organisation. All is going great and it looks set to be a stellar year; except after a month they have a very public falling out. Both are invaluable members of your team and are valuable assets, but if the situation continues it could potentially ruin a fantastic year. What should you do?

If you insert Niki Lauda, Mercedes team boss, in for the imaginary you in the above scenario, this is exactly the situation that Mr. Lauda found himself in after the Monaco grand prix.

Conflict management

After reading several interviews with the Mercedes team boss, it became clear to me that Niki Lauda is clearly a man with vast experience in managing competitive and conflicting individuals. I’ve been impressed with the way Lauda has dealt with the situation, especially when you consider the intense media scrutiny that the fallout has been under.

So what can HR learn from how the way Niki Lauda has managed the Hamilton-Rosberg dispute? The following are what I regard to be the basis of Mr. Lauda’s successful approach to resolving the Hamilton-Rosberg dispute:

  • Acknowledge the problem
  • Be honest about the situation
  • Pro-actively try to defuse the tension
  • Offer support to the employees in question
  • Assume leadership
  • Involve the team in the resolution
  • Draw on experience
  • Remind employees of their duty to be professional

I believe that the above are not only applicable to Formula 1 racing, but also offers great guidance to any HR department dealing with two conflicting employees. As signified by Lewis Hamilton’s recent tweet, even conflict between the most competitive employees is resolvable with the right approach.

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