Workplace Conflict for Managers

s a manager or supervisor, dealing with conflict might be a normal part of your daily work. In fact, employees spend on average 2 hours per week dealing with conflict, some spending upwards of 6 hours or more. This is a huge loss in terms of productivity, not to mention the indirect costs of conflict, such as increased sick leave, lack of sleep, high turnover, sabotage, disability claims, low morale and resistance to change. Conflicts between employees or directly with you as a manager can escalate into destructive conflict, hurting people and the bottom-line.

Your first instinct as a manager or supervisor might be to avoid conflict or tell employees to deal with it on their own. Conflict is certainly uncomfortable; you likely just want it to go away. You might think that you have more important things to deal with. However, the best way to address conflict is to prevent it from escalating, which requires careful planning and strategy, which takes into account the needs of the employee, the manager and the needs of the organization. Ignoring conflict is likely to cost you and the organization or company more in the long run.

First, determine the level of conflict, which will help you know who needs to be involved in the resolution:

Next, look at the types of conflict and try to decide what the cause of the issue is. Here are some of the most common conflicts that emerge when it comes to conflict commonly dealt with by managers and supervisors.

  1. Domain ambiguities or role-conflict take place when people or teams are put in unclear situations and they do not understand who must take responsibility.
    • What can you do? Have a meeting to ensure that expectations are clear.
  2. Resource scarcity conflicts, a common type of conflict in organizations, takes place where resources are scarce, such as during financial constraints or even if office space is limited, creating conflicts between individuals, teams and departments.
    • What can you do? Focus on relationships, and keep everyone up-to-date. Be honest about resource constraints.
    • What can you do? Ensure that you continuously focus on building trust, so that when things get rough, employees trust you.
  3. Power or value asymmetries are conflicts at a fundamental level, where people who rely on one another are seemingly starkly different from each other in the areas of status, values or influence.
    • What can you do? This is much more complicated. Seek the help of a conflict coach to determine your next actions.
    • What can you do? Ask for the assistance of a group facilitator to have a discussion on values within the group.

Use Mediate to Go to address your conflict head-on, in order to quickly resolve the issue before it gets out of hand.