Supervisor Goals Should Include Conflict Management

BY Tim Londergan
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Every company is comprised of employees with various backgrounds and different work styles. And even though co-​workers share a common business purpose, disagreements arise that increase tension and harm productivity. Conflicts may involve manipulation, insults, noncooperation, bullying and, anger. Regardless of a company’s culture, supervisor goals should include progress toward conflict-​resolution among employees.

Jonathan Hughes, who studies business strategy and penned an article for Ivey Business Journal, found that 84% of employees must regularly deal with “what they consider unreasonable counterparts;” 55% say it happens sometimes, but 28% call it a frequent problem. These troubling statistics threaten the future of organizations struggling to normalize after a tumultuous three-​year period.

Develop supervisor goals that increase workplace civility

Typically, human resource teams become involved in settling workplace disputes after they have escalated. Sometimes, line supervisors can put a lid on the problem. However, issues frequently go unresolved and can create emotional stress and polarize the workplace. Unfortunately, these events divert attention from the company’s mission. According to shrm​.org, other problems can arise from the conflicts, including:

  • Absenteeism
  • Turnover
  • Litigation

Simply put, handling workplace conflicts involves identification of the problem, dialogue and discussion among the people involved. But setting supervisor goals for conflict resolution and providing training toward constructive conversations can be a positive step toward a more tolerant and civil place of business.

Competing priorities in reaching the same goal

Ideally, employees of the same company strive to achieve similar goals. However, individuals often find themselves at cross-​purposes in how to get there. Hence, different knowledge, unique perspectives and specialized departments can derail an otherwise simple project. In the end, everyone must give way to decisions and actions that move the project forward. When supervisor goals align toward the greater purpose, and managers are skilled in conflict resolution, all parties can eventually agree on the path forward.

Use empathy and curiosity as a pathway to problem solving

Hughes provides a matrix that shows how individuals apply their influence. The chart contrasts in how assumptions and behaviors are commonly used versus how they can apply to problem-​solving. When faced with conflicting views, readers can grasp the shifts from black-​and-​white suppositions to more nuanced grey areas of understanding. When supervisor goals are focused on problem-​solving, conventional stiff-​necked opposition takes on a less-​defensive posture. Dispelling the urge to sell, manipulate or coerce others can result in greater learning, self-​realization and innovation toward mutual accomplishments.

Handling conflict between remote employees

Highly charged situations are not always face-​to-​face. Passive-​aggressive behavior, gossip, innuendo, bullying, and noncompliance can all occur under the radar. Additionally, in today’s remote work environment, conflict between employees can arise with unseen and often devastating results. Regular, individual communication helps but is not always possible. Tom Place, writing for Vital Learning, urges managers to schedule conversations with each team member individually to get to the root of any problems. Next, each person should offer their possible solution. Failing that, your supervisor goals should include coming up with some ideas yourself. Finally, bringing everyone together in a forthright discussion of the solution and next steps should put everyone back on track.

Joint problem-​solving is best

You should advise employees who have complaints about co-​workers to try to work out their differences directly. However, your company’s supervisor goals should include collaborative efforts toward mutual problem-​solving. A collaborative work environment requires team members to identify and solve problems on multiple levels. Managers who can mediate and facilitate have a distinct advantage. Undoubtedly, people learn from experience. Further, Hughes’ study finds that after resolving disagreements, people make better decisions and are more prepared to develop innovative solutions.

Organizations need people who can handle day-​to-​day issues on their own and think independently. When they can analyze problems and come up with their own solutions, they free up company resources and increase their value to the enterprise.

Photo by Mateusz Wacławek on Unsplash