How Do Your Bosses Handle Conflict In The Workplace?

Craig Ferrara

Historically, every single boss I’ve ever worked for thought they were approachable. In some cases that couldn’t have been any further from the truth.

Unfortunately, many managers want to believe they’re approachable, but their outward demeanor shows something else. These are generally the bosses who never seem to have their finger on the pulse of their people.

As a result when something unexpected happens, they’re shocked. Because they feel out of touch, they lash out rather than getting to the core of the issue.

In defense of the typical manager, they may feel a need to fall in-line with how their upper level management and peers are acting amongst the masses (after all, they have a boss too!). BUT I do feel it’s critical to demonstrate a “human” management approach.

While I don’t think a boss needs to be besties with all of his people, they should be fully aware of when their folks require that human side to come through. Because at the end of the day, we’re all trying to do our best with what we have and in the position that we’re in – human flaws and all.

Managing with human instincts in mind

Now while I understand that sometimes people demonstrate some raw emotion in stressful situations (I’ve certainly been guilty of this), what I’ve discovered is that, particularly when I’m in a sort of leadership position, I’m better off diagnosing the specific problem rather than letting that emotion affect what could otherwise be a teaching moment for an employee. Sure, this may be management 101 for some of you, but I think we’re guilty of missing those teaching opportunities when we’re caught up in our busy and sometimes stressful days (and human instincts). 

A good example about what not to do that I’ve seen is the stern/frustrated/angry mass email we receive from a boss addressing a problem he or she doesn’t know how to handle. You know those fun emails that leave you thinking…

“What the hell does this have to do with me?… I didn’t think I was doing that wrong… but maybe I am… maybe my boss doesn’t have any faith in me.”

And you can imagine what complications might follow from there.

The reality is the email probably had nothing to do with you at all and it was intended to address a few select members of the team. Not surprisingly, you might then go off to complain to everyone else wondering why your boss just opened up a can of whoop ass on you when you feel you’ve done nothing wrong.

Not a great use of anyone’s time. Point is that this could all be avoided if the boss took the time out of their busy day for the one-on-one meeting that was necessary to address the real culprits.


Conflict avoidance isn’t the answer

Let’s face it, we all innately want to avoid conflict but if the source of the conflict is not addressed with the intended individual(s) head-on, you’ll more than likely create a bigger problem. I’m not saying you should be looking for a beef. Instead have a healthy discussion that effectively says “Hey, I give you plenty of autonomy; I’ve made your objectives very clear; I think I’m fair and I trust you. So why aren’t you doing what I ask?”

Assuming you’ve created this kind of open environment, you end up setting yourself up for a very easy conversation.  The most common result from what I’ve seen is an admission that they could be doing better and you’re justified feeling the way you do.

So how would you feel you represent yourself to your employees and peers? What kind of environment have you created? Is conflict something you avoid?

Nowadays, the average working environment has advanced beyond the concept of  “do what you’re told” from an unapproachable boss. It’s critical that we create the feeling of an open work-place.

There are far too many other job options out there, not too mention plenty of ways to access public information on what it’s like to work at a company. People are paying attention. Maybe it’s time to start paying attention to yourself.