“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” -Anais Nin
The truth in this quote is very evident in the workplace when strangers are brought together and tasked with working toward a common goal. Individuals with different backgrounds, beliefs, personal and professional goals, experiences, work histories, and skill levels become coworkers who are expected to merge into an effective team.
Think of the character traits and management style of your worst supervisor. Now think of the character traits of the coworker you liked working with the least. Do they have anything in common?
There is no one size fits all management style. Of course good managers set clear expectations and boundaries, delegate and assign tasks, and evaluate work performed with fairness but sometimes the manager must also be the referee or judge. Workplace conflict is inevitable. Sometimes the issues are small misunderstandings and other times they can be extreme disruptions like wage arguments, jealousy, or putting in unequal effort. High school bullies can grow up and become bullies in the workplace. Coworkers competing for a promotion may try to sabotage each other. Sometimes two people with very similar personalities engage in power struggles because they are simply too much alike.
• One way managers can build team cohesion and manage conflict is to fully understand the strengths, weaknesses, and work styles of their employees. For example, one team member may request direct and constant feedback while another doesn’t appreciate being critiqued.
• Knowledge of employee goals and motivations will allow the manager to suggest win-win solutions
• Discerning when to intervene is important. Sometimes employees have the ability to work things out on their own.
• Making a commitment not to avoid or ignore conflict is vital. Unresolved conflict leads to decreased productivity, decreased innovation, and increased employee turnover.
An engaged manager who is proactively seeking out areas in need of improvement or issues that may cause conflict are better able to minimize or alleviate conflict in some instances. Remember, managers supervise work but that work is completed by people.
Nicki Sanders is an experienced trainer, group facilitator, and program manager. She has packaged her Masters of Social Work degree and over 15 years of work experience into Packaged For Success, a training and professional development company. Packaged For Success provides career coaching to college students, entry-level job hunters, and experienced employees seeking a promotion. Packaged For Success also offers communication and productivity improvement training for employees and supervisors and provides consultation on building sustainable, impactful, socially responsible community programs.
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