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 steps that help resolve conflicts and turn the situation 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 or engaging in confrontation, a smart first step is to clarify the facts (using relevant documentation if appropriate) 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, it’s important that you 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? 

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. 

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.  

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. 

The role of contract-management software 

Contractor-management software is just one way that organizations can improve upon their communications with contractors. Some software, for example, comes with in-app messaging tools that enable hiring companies to connect and communicate with contractors in real-time once work is underway, enabling you to send reminders on due dates, incomplete paperwork, outstanding tasks, and so on. These types of features keep everyone on the same page, potentially helping to reduce conflict between hiring organizations and third-party contractors.