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Managing Interpersonal Conflicts in the Workplace Training for Supervisors
©SHRM 20082 Introduction "Why can't we all just get along?" This question, as many of you may remember, was asked in the worst of circumstances by a man severely beaten during an arrest. But many of us ask this question on a daily basis. In personal and family relationships, in schools and at work, interactions among people are often fraught with disagreements. In workplaces, supervisors frequently have to address serious and ongoing interpersonal disputes. These disagreements usually involve conflicts between their employees and themselves or quarrels between co-workers. It is important for supervisors to understand what causes interpersonal conflicts and how to revolve them. This sample presentation is intended for presentation to supervisors and other individuals who manage employees. It is designed to be presented by an individual who is knowledgeable in managing interpersonal conflicts and with the employer’s own policies and practices. This is a sample presentation that must be customized to match the employer’s own culture, policies and practices.
©SHRM 20083 Objectives At the close of this session, you will be able to: Explain what workplace interpersonal conflicts are, the forms they take and cite examples. List at least three causes of these conflicts. State ways interpersonal conflicts may be avoided. List steps to follow in addressing an interpersonal conflict between two or more employees. Describe the supervisor’s responsibilities during a conflict resolution meeting.
©SHRM 20084 What Are Workplace Interpersonal Conflicts? Interpersonal conflicts that occur in the workplace are struggles between at least two individuals who perceive interference, lack of cooperation or lack of resources needed to perform their work. These conflicts may take the following forms: > Publicly faulting the performance of a co-worker. > Constant bickering between two employees. > Coolness or an avoidance whenever possible between employees. > Verbally abusing or making demeaning remarks to a co-worker. An important aspect of this definition is that employees may only perceive there is a conflict when in reality none exists.
©SHRM 20085 Examples of Workplace Interpersonal Conflicts Edwin thinks his supervisor, Sally, is not giving him good leads for his sales job. Instead of discussing his concern with Sally, he starts publicly criticizing her management abilities, saying she is biased and that she is causing sales revenue to fall. After a meeting with Sally that HR scheduled and attended, Edwin realized that he had an erroneous perception and that because of the economic downturn Sally had no good leads for any of her salespeople.
©SHRM 20086 Examples of Workplace Interpersonal Conflicts In a departmental staff meeting, Alice makes a remark that some employees are not doing their share of the work. Tony, who thinks he is a slower worker than most, is offended and stays upset for the rest of the day. He replays what Alice said over and over and talks about it to co-workers. But he never asks Alice about the remark, maintains a grudge and ignores her except when absolutely necessary. After a meeting arranged and led by their supervisor, Alice and Tony realize the conflict occurred because they both have erroneous perceptions. Alice wrongly thinks that some of her co-workers are not performing as they should when in reality all are producing at about the same and expected level. Tony erroneously thinks that Alice knows he is not performing as well as others.
©SHRM 20087 Cause of Interpersonal Conflicts Some of the causes of interpersonal conflicts are: Differences and diversity among employees, potentially leading to misunderstandings based on age, race or culture, prejudices, intolerances, rumors about an individual or group. Excessive and uncontrolled competition between employees, comparison of performance ratings and bonuses, perceived inequities, fear of not receiving a promotion or losing a job. Internal conflicts within an employee such as bigotry, tendency to hold grudges, false pride, blaming others for one’s own problems. Romantic personal relationships or sexual tensions and harassment. Drug- or alcohol-related behavior.
©SHRM 20088 Questions ? Comments?
©SHRM 20089 Ways to Avoid Interpersonal Conflicts Interpersonal conflicts arise in every workplace. Supervisors may help reduce the number and severity of these conflicts by: Emphasizing that employees must, despite their differences, treat each other with respect, dignity and fairness. Eliminating a defensive climate in which employees judge and criticize each other, have hidden agendas and are close-minded to new ideas and changes. Establishing a supportive climate where employees openly discuss and understand each other’s ideas and concerns, are willing to listen to each other, and focus on accomplishing their work and group goals. Providing training to employees on improving communication skills and settling differences effectively and on a timely basis.
©SHRM 200810 Steps to Follow in Addressing an Interpersonal Conflict 1.Obtain agreement from all parties that they will: Work to resolve the conflict. Treat each other with respect, dignity and fairness. Be clear and truthful about what is really bothering them and what they want to change. Listen to other participants and make an effort to understand their views. Be willing to take responsibility for their behavior. Be willing to compromise.
©SHRM 200811 Steps to Follow in Addressing an Interpersonal Conflict (cont’d) 2.Arrange for all parties to confront the problem. Select a time as soon as all parties have cooled down. Meet at a place that is neutral for all parties. 3.Have all participants describe their interpersonal conflict in clear terms and describe behaviors, feelings and desired changes. Direct participants to use “I,” not “you,” and to focus on specific behaviors and problems, not on people. 4.Ask participants to restate what the others have said. 5.Summarize the conflict based on what you have heard and obtain agreement from all parties.
©SHRM 200812 Steps to Follow in Addressing an Interpersonal Conflict (cont’d) 6.Brainstorm to find solutions: Ask each party to offer a solution. List all of the options presented (either verbally or on a flip chart). Discuss all options in a positive manner. Rule out any options that parties agree are unworkable. 7.Summarize all possible options for a solution. 8.Assign further analysis of each option to a participant. 9.Obtain agreement on next steps. 10.Close the meeting by having all parties shake hands, apologize and thank each other for working to resolve their conflict.
©SHRM 200813 Supervisor’s Responsibilities During a Conflict Resolution Meeting During a conflict resolution meeting, it is important for the supervisor to: Address the real issues. Speak openly and honestly. Listen well. Express strong feelings appropriately. Remain rational. Review what has been said. Learn to take as well as to give. Avoid harmful and negative statements.
©SHRM 200814 Questions? Comments?
©SHRM 200815 Summary Interpersonal conflicts that occur in the workplace are struggles between at least two individuals who perceive interference, lack of cooperation or lack of resources needed to perform their work. Some of the causes of interpersonal conflicts are differences between employees, excessive competition, internal personal conflicts, romantic relationships or sexual tensions, and drug- or alcohol-related behavior. Supervisors may help reduce the number and severity of these conflict by emphasizing that employees treat each other with respect, dignity and fairness, establishing a supportive instead of defensive climate and providing training.
©SHRM 200816 Summary (cont’d) The first step a supervisor must take to resolve an interpersonal conflict is to seek agreement from all parties on following rules such as treating each other with respect, dignity and fairness, and listening to each other and being willing to compromise. Other steps include arranging a neutral place for parties to meet, encouraging parties to communicate openly, brainstorming, summarizing and obtaining agreement on the next steps to follow. It is important for a supervisor in a conflict resolution meeting to address the real issues, speak honestly, listen well, review what has been said and avoid harmful, negative statements.
©SHRM 200817 Course Evaluation Please be sure to complete and leave the evaluation sheet you received with your handouts Thank you for your attention and interest!
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