Conflict resolution between supervisors and their employees

October 14, 2021 · 5 min readAll

Conflict resolution is never fun, but it’s an essential part of every business. Your employees will not get along all the time, particularly in high-pressure situations. 

A power imbalance can complicate the situation and conflict in the workplace can cost your company time and money. Learn to handle these situations effectively to keep morale high and boost productivity.

Why is it so hard to manage conflict with a supervisor?

U.S. employees spend about ​​ 2.8 hours each week engaged in workplace conflict. For employees, conflict with a supervisor or a higher-level employee can be emotional. Your employees may be scared to speak up thinking they will be disciplined or even fired. 

Managers should be able to diffuse conflict as part of their job, but some may shy away fearing their employees will take the criticism personally. The best way to manage conflict when there is a power imbalance is to learn to recognize it and train your supervisors to deal with it more effectively.

Communicate and listen

Another way to manage conflict when there is a power imbalance is to create a culture where employees feel free to air their grievances without being punished. Set aside a place in the office where people can speak privately, and teach your managers how to listen.

Active listening is an important part of conflict resolution. This involves being engaged and paying attention to what the other person is saying. Encourage each member of the conflict to listen and paraphrase one another. Give them a chance to cool off before the conversation so they can detach from their emotions and be open to feedback.

Acknowledge both sides of the conflict

It is tempting to side with the person who is in a higher position in the company. That’s one reason these types of conflicts are so difficult. However, each person should be given the opportunity to share their side of the situation without the other getting defensive. 

If you’re a manager and your employee is having trouble with your management style, hear them out. You might have conflicting work styles that are causing tension. But getting defensive will stop you from being open to ideas that will help you solve the problem.

Involve a mediator

If your supervisor and the employee they manage are heated, or if the conflict is severe, you may need to involve a mediator, like an HR employee. Having a neutral party in the room can help diffuse tension. This person can also help paraphrase each party’s grievances in a way that seems less personal.

Conflict arises for a variety of reasons and it’s not always bad. Sometimes, conflict can lead to a resolution that makes processes more effective for the whole team. These disputes are common in a business setting, but it’s possible to resolve them in a way that’s fair for everyone involved. 

Training your supervisors on how to communicate effectively and creating a culture in which people feel open to bring problems to the table can help you identify and resolve these situations before they disrupt the team. It can be hard to detach from emotions, but this is the best way to come up with solutions to make everyone happy.

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