Work conflict can be stressful enough but conflict between employees and managers includes a power dynamic that can make conflict exponentially more stressful for everyone involved. While employees can benefit greatly from building up their own set of conflict resolution skills, the responsibility for effective conflict engagement rests in the hands of leadership, especially when they’re involved in the conflict.
Conflict Between Employees and Managers
Employees often grumble about their work stress away from their bosses. They may sulk at their desk or use a work happy hour to dispel some frustration with colleagues, but rarely will they let their manager witness their plight so as to avoid being seen as problematic or untrustworthy. For this reason, it is typically only when things have already escalated that conflict between employees and managers becomes visible and by then, the problem may be a hefty one. A proactive approach to addressing manager and employee conflict includes brushing up on the following skills:
Know Your Team’s Stress Responses
Addressing conflict in the workplace isn’t anyone’s cup of tea. But if you’re in a management position, you’ll want to know about the different types of reactions people have to stress so that you can be prepared to recognize and respond to all matters of red flags. This can also help you engage with employees differently when things are calm, providing leadership that’s aligned with the personality differences on your team and giving instructions, feedback, and recognition in a way that promotes a healthy work culture.
Know Your Own Stress Response
Everyone experiences stress at work but when managers are stressed, employees may feel it. It’s important to check in with yourself to ensure your stress isn’t creating negativity in the workplace. Ask yourself these questions to help reduce conflict in the workplace:
- Are you micromanaging folks that prefer more autonomy?
- Have you clearly communicated expectations and parameters around those expectations for each employee?
- Do you also ensure employees have the resources or direction they need to accomplish those expectations?
- Do you ever criticize employees in an unsupportive way?
- Do you play favorites or demonstrate a lack of confidence in certain employees?
- Are you, yourself, performing well the duties that you’ve been assigned, modeling effective workplace behavior?
The answers to these questions can be a warning sign for pending conflict between employees and managers.
Collaborate with your Team
Manager and employee conflict can certainly have a different ring to it than peer-to-peer conflict. The power dynamics between manager and employee can add extra stress to an already stressful conflict. Employees may be cautious to assert their needs in order to avoid disciplinary action or retaliation from management whereas management may try to assert their power and have it only escalate the conflict. Managers would benefit to acknowledge this power dynamic and use it to facilitate collaboration rather than to reinforce present fears. Processing conflict in the workplace together, using effective communication skills and emotion regulation, and calling in a neutral third party if things continue to escalate, like someone who specializes in organizational conflict can guide you in the right direction.
Since conflict between employees and managers can be high-risk, it’s important that you take the right steps to mitigate long-term negative impacts. Get insight and support from experienced professionals who can arm you with the leadership, communication, and conflict resolution skills needed to navigate this important issue. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today to get the right solutions for your team.