6 Examples of Conflict with Supervisor

October 14, 2022by Valerie Dansereau

At the workplace, people often spend more time with their colleagues than they do with their families. It’s common for people who are experiencing work-related stress to take it out on each other. Disagreements between coworkers frequently involve two employees but can also be between employees and supervisors. Here are some examples of conflict with supervisor.

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  1. Unclear Job Roles or Instructions

Whenever the job roles of staff members are unclear, employees are bound to get confused or agitated. Communication is one of the most important skills any supervisor needs. A key part of management is ensuring every employee knows their role and what’s expected of them and supervisors need to be supportive and available if an employee has questions.

When there’s confusion or other negative emotions, it’s only a matter of time before there’s conflict between coworkers or between workers and supervisors. Employees may lash out if they’ve put a lot of work into a project only to find out someone else did the same thing or that they should have been focusing on something different.

  1. Micromanagement

Once an employee understands their role, they no longer need to be supervised every minute of the day. Micromanagers that hover over people or ask for constant updates on progress can trigger anger or frustration. Staff members feel like they’re not being trusted or treated with respect and may begin to question their own ability to do their jobs.

  1. Disinterested Supervisor

Many people want to feel a sense of fulfillment at work, and fulfillment is often tied in with knowing they’re making an important contribution and that their hard work is appreciated. If a supervisor is usually unavailable, shows lack of interest in an employee’s questions or concerns and rarely if ever communicates praise or appreciation, there’s bound to be conflict.

  1. Personality Conflict

It can be challenging if there’s a personality clash between a staff member and their supervisor. An employee may pick up vibes that their manager doesn’t like them, or that they’re not being treated the same way others are treated. The employee may feel they can’t do anything right. Supervisors may have unconscious biases and managers and employees sometimes have different communication styles, leading to misunderstandings.

  1. Unfair Treatment

Supervisors need the ability to pay attention to job performance without focusing on personality types. If staff members believe that there’s any kind of unconscious bias or favoritism, they’re going to feel like they’re being treated unfairly. Other things that could fall under unfair treatment include expectations that are too high, such as expecting staff to handle more and more work for the same pay. A supervisor that’s insensitive to an employee’s personal needs such as challenges involving childcare may be treating staff unfairly.

Once an employee feels they are being treated unfairly, friction is bound to erupt. A dissatisfied employee may directly confront the supervisor or take their complaint to human resources.

  1. Bullying or Harassment

It’s a very serious problem when a staff member believes their supervisor is bullying or harassing them. Supervisors need to be familiar with things that could be interpreted as harassment and refrain from any actions that could be called into question such as jokes with racial or sexual undertones. An aggressive leadership style may be interpreted as bullying or trying to intimidate a staff member.

These or any other examples of conflict with supervisor have to be addressed sooner rather than later. Managers and employees both have the right to involve human resources if they’re not able to come to a peaceful resolution on their own.

Reach out to Pollack Peacebuilding Systems for conflict coaching or conflict resolution services to help restore a peaceful work environment.


Valerie Dansereau

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