5 Conflict Resolution Strategies for Supervisors | SOS Podcast

5 Conflict Resolution Strategies for Supervisors | SOS Podcast

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable.  More than ever, supervisors must recognize signs it exists and intervene for the purpose of helping bring about resolution.  In this episode, host Joe White outlines five steps to achieving compromise where conflict exists.





The SOS Podcast is a production of AEU LEAD, an organization redefining how mid and frontline managers are developed.

Joe White:

Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Joe White, and this is the Supervisor Skills Secrets of Success podcast. As we enter the middle phase of season three, we do so with continued emphasis on fundamental skills needed for effective frontline leadership. In today's episode, we're discussing conflict resolution, an essential skill for anyone leading a team. I'll be offering some ideas for ways to tactfully diffuse confrontational situations when and where they occur. That said, let's get underway. Conflict in the workplace is unavoidable. It's a naturally occurring consequence of human relations and interactions in proximity to one another. Where differences of opinion exists that prevent agreement, conflict results. Conflict in and of itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, provided resolution can be reached efficiently and effectively. In a culture that values diversity of fault and inclusion of non-traditional perspectives, it can lead to performance improvements and growth over time.

The ability to move beyond differences in opinion is a sign of maturity in a hallmark of a healthy workplace culture. On occasion, it also requires guidance and leadership from frontline resources capable of facilitating a resolution process. In practice, conflict resolution is a process intended to help resolve disagreements peacefully and effectively. It occurs only when all parties agree points of contention have been resolved. It's important to note conflict resolution doesn't necessarily result in unified agreement. It should, however, lead to an absence of objection. While anyone can benefit from it, conflict resolution skills are particularly important for supervisors to have. For those looking for ways to help employees move past points of contention, here are several suggestions we would like to offer.


1.      Acknowledge that it exists. 

The first step to resolving conflict is acknowledging indications that it exists. Ignoring it or choosing to look the other way seldom works and tends to escalate tensions unnecessarily. Engage in conversation with those involved and share with them your concerns. Doing so opens the door to meaningful conversation needed to move past individual differences. 


2.      Understand various perspectives. 

 While it may be easy to render an opinion based on limited information, it's seldom productive to do so. Take the time needed to understand the issue and try to see things from the perspective of those involved. It's not uncommon for issues to resolve themselves just through a course of dialogue and discussion. Open communications and allow needed conversations and opportunity to take place.


3.      Recognize emotional attachments. 

 More often than not, individual perspectives reflect how we feel and not necessarily what we might think about the situation or circumstances involved. Help all parties involved separate feelings and emotions from logic and reason. Emotions generally represent an individual perspective, while rational thinking is required to see things more holistically. Getting everyone on the same page and seeing the issue through the same lens is the key to resolving conflict. 


4.      Seek compromise and resolution. 

 To move past confrontational gridlock requires a shift in perspective from all parties involved. The point of connection and the secret to compromise is rooted in logic and reason. The goal and conflict resolution is compromise. The litmus test is not agreement. It's not objection on the path forward. Staying big-picture focused, outcome-oriented, and objectively based is the only way to consistently reach compromise where points of contention exist.


5.      Involve others if needed. 

 In lieu of all efforts, there are circumstances, whereby compromise seemingly, can't be reached. In many instances, the points of contention have existed for some time, and the emotions involved ultimately reach a tipping point. When this happens, your primary objective is to stabilize the situation until supporting resources are available to intervene. If that means separating those involved, then you need to do so. Speak to your manager or someone in human resources right away and follow the guidance they provide. More than anything, don't ignore spillover events. In extreme cases, they can lead to workplace violence. Nothing is more important in the moment than gaining control of a spiraling conflict.

Conflicts in the workplace are inevitable. They're most often rooted in emotions and represent differing opinions held from the perspective of those involved. Engaging in conversation to better understand the issue more holistically is an important first step. It also helps you elevate the conversation to one involving principles of logic and reason. Provided you're able to make this transition, resolution most often can be reached. Above all, compromise is the goal, and not objection the key to moving forward. 

Thank you for joining us. We greatly appreciate your time as a listener. Our next podcast is scheduled for release in less than two weeks on July 25th. For that episode, we'll be discussing communication. Following that episode, we'll take a break in August and return in early September with a topic involving workplace safety. Should you have any questions or need additional information regarding today's topic, just let us know. Our contact information is provided in the show notes accompanying this episode. And for those that may not have reviewed or rated your experience with our show, we would greatly appreciate you doing so. That's it for now. Stay safe, and thanks for listening.


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About the Author

As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.

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