How to Deal With Conflict As a Supervisor

There are many responsibilities attached to working as a supervisor, including dealing with the occasional conflict between two or more employees. Learning how to deal with conflict as a supervisor is essential, as it helps you maintain a healthy, harmonious, productive work environment. To help you navigate conflicts successfully, review the following tips.

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Make Your Expectations Clear

Establishing clear work environment expectations helps avoid conflicts. There are endless resources available related to workplace professionalism, including training videos, employee handbooks, training seminars, and teamwork exercises. When employees are clear on what they need to do and how they should conduct themselves at work, the risk of conflicts decreases. You can also refer to training materials whenever employees need “refreshers” about workplace conduct.

Stay Calm At All Times

Remaining calm is not always the easiest thing, especially when people make inflammatory remarks or otherwise behave out of turn. To help you maintain a calm demeanor in the face of conflict, focus on your breath. Deep breathing from the diaphragm can instantly calm the body and mind to help you stay proactive instead of reactive. If you are calm, your employees will calm down as well. It is hard to maintain an angry or frustrated demeanor when the people around you are not reacting. Try to leave your emotions out of every work conflict and instead look at each issue from an objective standpoint. Refraining from letting your emotions rule each situation also garners you more respect as a supervisor.

Encourage Documentation

Figuring out how to deal with conflict as a supervisor can involve creating a reporting system. While some issues are small and can be resolved without you or other supervisors, any big problem should be documented. Encourage employees dealing with any type of severe problem, such as ethnicity or race-related discrimination, sexual harassment, or religious intolerence, to file formal complaints.

However, problems do not have to be super-severe to warrant reporting. For example, say an employee is annoyed by another team member on their shift who is always looking at their phone or playing a game on said phone. The first employee could report something like, “I have repeatedly asked [x team member] to put their phone down and help me with various tasks in the warehouse. No matter how kind or tactful I am, this individual is rude and does nothing to help. I am increasingly frustrated as a result. Please advise, thank you!”

Consider Weekly or Monthly Team Meetings

Dealing with conflict as a supervisor can call for weekly or monthly team meetings where everyone “checks in” and can discuss any issues they are experiencing. Make it clear that these meetings are open, judgment-free forums designed to promote a more honest work environment. You should also make it clear that the meetings are not about “ratting people out” or complaining about one another, rather they concern coming together as a team and brainstorming about making the environment better. If there are any issues between employees calling for conflict resolution, the team members in question should come to you. That way, you can resolve the issue in private or schedule time with a professional mediator.

Remember, learning how to deal with conflict as a supervisor is not an overnight process. It is normal to experience “road bumps,” but with time, patience, and practice, you will enjoy a happier, healthier, more peaceful work environment. ‘Patience’ includes being patient with your team and with yourself–everyone is human, after all!

For more about dealing with workplace conflicts as a supervisor and other effective leadership tools, please contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today!

Kent McGroarty

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