Bosses Least Trusted to Handle Workplace Conflicts
The management consulting firm surveyed 2,700 employees to probe their perceptions of 20 specific behaviors exhibited by their immediate supervisor. “Conflict occurs in every organization,” says Stephen Parker, president of Healthy Companies International. “Their most common sources have to do with management succession, growth strategy and execution, and balancing revenue versus modeling the company culture. A classic conflict is about inequity of roles and resources. The boss has to balance values and outcomes, not simply impose a solution.”
According to Parker, bosses may even make a difficult situation worse in a number of ways: “They may fail to understand the exact nature of the issue or themselves become defensive or confrontational. Getting emotionally invested, ignoring the feelings of the people involved or denying one’s own part…each is a trap the boss can fall into.”
Inaction by the boss may also cause conflict, observes Parker. “A manager may choose to ignore inappropriate employee behavior, overlook broken promises or missed deadlines, or permit anger to ruin team meetings. Inability to manage conflict creates more conflict.”
While conflicts certainly tend to be about a clash of personalities or styles, Parker says, they may also have more to do with legitimate business issues. “The best solution may not be just to end a dispute, but to leverage the disagreement as a way of examining all the issues or alternatives.”
Developing conflict management skills is increasingly required in today’s complex work environment, Parker warns. Bosses need to get comfortable with a repertoire of conflict management skills. A good beginning is not to become too emotionally invested in a particular outcome and to keep parties focused on the business, not personalities.