Managing Interpersonal Conflicts In The Workplace Training For

Managing Interpersonal Conflicts
in the Workplace
Training for Supervisors
"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 2008
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
©SHRM 2008
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
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 2008
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 2008
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 2008
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 2008
Questions ? Comments?
©SHRM 2008
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 2008
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
Be willing to take responsibility for their behavior.
Be willing to compromise.
©SHRM 2008
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 2008
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 2008
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 2008
Questions? Comments?
©SHRM 2008
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 drugor 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 2008
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 2008
Course Evaluation
Please be sure to complete and leave the evaluation sheet you
received with your handouts
Thank you for your attention and interest!
©SHRM 2008

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