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Conflicts in The Workplace: Employee Vs. Manager 


Employee Management

Conflicts in The Workplace: Employee Vs. Manager 

People have distinct personalities, come from different backgrounds, and adhere to diverse working styles,

May 12, 2022
min read
May 12, 2022
8 min read
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Conflicts in the Workplace: Employee Vs. Manager 

People have distinct personalities, come from different backgrounds, and adhere to diverse working styles, making inevitable workplace conflict. And one of the most common workplace conflicts is between managers and employees.

Most of the time, manager-employee conflict starts with a simple disagreement and can quickly escalate into an ongoing argument. Disputes can create an uncomfortable environment at the workplace, affecting the entire team's productivity. 

While it is tempting and even 'safe' to avoid conflict between a manager and employee in the workplace, it is also essential to recognize what caused it and try to resolve it before putting the company through turmoil and unproductivity. 

Here is all you have to know about manager-employee conflicts in the workplace and how to resolve them. 

Telltale Signs of Manager-Employee Conflict in the Workplace 

The first step to resolving manager-employee conflict in the workplace is acknowledging that it exists. The following are some common signs that a manager-employee conflict exists in the workplace:

1. Low employee retention 

If you notice that there is a high employee turnover in the company, it may indicate something is wrong. This is also the case if you see that employees from a particular team are quitting in large numbers, requesting project changes, or looking demoralized. 

Workplaces that frequently deal with conflicts usually impair overall employee satisfaction. If you do not resolve manager-employee disputes amicably, employees will likely leave the company. 

2. Declining productivity 

If the company's productivity has dipped or specific projects are taking unusually long to complete, it may signify an ongoing manager-employee conflict. Even though many factors affect a company's productivity, manager-employee conflict can quickly worsen the company's situation. 

Sometimes projects may even come to a halt when the manager and employees disagree about certain aspects. Therefore, if you notice that specific deadlines are being pushed back without prior explanations, perhaps the manager and some employees disagree. 

3.Tense meetings 

Workplace meetings are supposed to be productive. A successful workplace meeting should involve open discussions about the company's well-being and how to increase productivity. If workplace meetings are tense or venting sessions, it may signify manager-employee conflict. 

When things get tense in a workplace meeting, people raise voices or interrupt each other. Edgy meetings are a waste of time, and they never get anything done. It would be best to resolve disagreements between the conflicting parties immediately before the situation spirals and suffocates productivity. 

4. Disagreement patterns 

Does a particular employee always seem to disagree with the manager regardless of the setting or topic of discussion? If there is, it could indicate an ongoing manager-employee conflict. When colleagues and managers disagree or challenge each other respectfully, it shows that the company has a healthy work environment. 

However, if you notice that some disagreements seem personal, it may signify a developing conflict. This needs addressing before the situation worsens. 

5. Corridor gossiping 

Another common sign of manager-employee conflict is when employees start forming groups and whispering behind closed doors. This could be happening because certain employees disagree with the manager's decisions. 

6. Avoiding eye contact 

If you notice that an employee and manager do not maintain eye contact during meetings or do not greet each other, it indicates a conflict. This conflict could be pre-existing or in its early stages, and you need to resolve it soon. 

Causes of Manager-Employee Conflict in the Workplace 

There are various reasons why managers and employees conflict in the workplace. It is necessary to identify the causes of these conflicts to prevent them from happening. The following are the leading causes of manager-employee conflict in workplaces:

1. Unclear roles and expectations 

When applying for a specific job position, you would expect the roles and responsibilities in the job description to be your only work once you get the part.

However, some companies do not have clearly defined roles for different job positions. This is never a good idea as it usually leads to overlapping work. When the roles and expectations are unclear, an employee may constantly disagree with the manager.

Employees may overlook some projects because the manager assumed they were responsible for them. Overlapping work creates a sense of confusion in the workplace, affecting the company's productivity in the long run. 

A manager must clarify job roles and expectations for every employee to avoid overlapping work and stepping on each other's toes. Every employee should also get on-the-job training to familiarize themselves with their job roles and expectations. 

2. Resistance to change 

Most of the time, employees get stuck in certain working styles because they are convenient and easy to follow. Not every employee readily embraces change in the workplace, and some of them need ample time to adjust to it. 

This is because a change in the workplace creates fear of the unknown and can create confusion and denial. This will quickly result in manager-employee conflict, especially when employees fail to perform the new changes. 

To avoid conflict and maintain a smoother transition, the company's management should explain why change is necessary. They should also involve them and train them in their new job responsibilities. 

3. Poor communication 

Effective communication is needed to create a healthy work environment. Poor communication can originate from the manager or employee, and it usually involves misinformation and lack of information.

Many people think they are good communicators, and they end up overlooking minor aspects that easily result in workplace conflict. To facilitate effective communication and avoid misinformation in the workplace, you need to say what you mean, listen to the other party, and manage your nonverbal cues appropriately. 

4. Lack of trust 

When one person does not trust another, conflict is inevitable. If the manager does not believe in an employee completing a particular project, it will create disagreements. Managers should know their employees and build trust to avoid such conflicts. 

5. Differences in personality 

A workplace usually comprises people with different preferences, backgrounds, and personalities. When managers and employees do not recognize and accept their differences, disagreements arise, leading to ongoing conflict.

You do not always make friends with everyone you meet. Therefore, do not expect employees and managers to get along. 

While employees and managers don't need to become mutual friends, respect should exist between both parties. The managers and employees should focus on their responsibilities and the shared goals in the workplace. 

6. Overwhelming workloads 

If an employee feels that the workload assigned to them by the manager is more extensive than that given to other employees, conflict may arise. Employees may also resent the manager if they feel pressured to deliver projects on a strict and unrealistic deadline. 

If this keeps happening, the employee may even consider leaving the company. Managers are supposed to be unbiased when assigning responsibilities in the workplace. The employees do not feel like the manager mistreats them, especially their colleagues. 

7. Toxic work environment 

The way employees feel about themselves, the management, and their colleagues is critical. If an employee feels like they are part of a happy community in the workplace, it will significantly improve their job performance. However, if an employee feels like the manager is doing everything to frustrate them, it will create conflict. 

Strategies for Resolving Manager-Employee Conflict in the Workplace 

The following are strategies that you can use to resolve manager-employee conflict in the workplace:

1. Determine the source of the conflict

By identifying the source of the conflict, you will understand how everything escalated. Both parties should relay their part of the story privately to give you an honest perspective. 

2. Let everyone involved talk as you listen carefully 

Everyone involved in the conflict should get a chance to vent and give their views. Both parties will understand their differences, what caused their dispute, and how to resolve the disagreement with open communication.

During this time, you should avoid formulating your responses and instead listen to both sides carefully. Similarly, create rules on word usage and courtesy. 

3. Focus on the behaviour 

When resolving workplace conflict, you should only focus on the behaviour causing the conflict and not the people involved. If a particular person's behavioural pattern needs addressing, do it privately. 

4. Explore solutions 

Finding a solution to a workplace conflict, especially involving people of different ranks, is challenging. However, you should clearly state that both parties need to resolve the dispute. It would help if you also asked them for their views on the best solution. Once everyone has given their thoughts, go with the solution that both parties support. 

Summing Up 

It would be best never to ignore manager-employee conflict in the workplace as it can cost the company in the long run. A company's management should always clarify everyone's responsibilities and set clear expectations to help prevent unnecessary manager-employee conflict.

If a dispute arises, it needs addressing immediately to allow constructive change. Keep both parties engaged and on respectful terms. And above all else, do not pick sides as it could escalate the situation. Mediators need to be in-between because neutrality and calmness will always bear a successful conflict resolution. 

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Workpay is a HR and Payroll software company that offers time & attendance, payroll, human resource, leave, expenses and remote teams solutions to businesses across Africa.

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