What can supervisors do to manage conflict more effectively?
There are several things supervisors can to do to effectively manage conflict. One is to take the initiative by confronting a difficult situation. Another tips is to restate repeatedly that your criticism of the supervisee is not personal. You are not devaluing their system of beliefs, or values, or them as a person. Rather, you are addressing a behavior that cannot be tolerated.
Next, analyze the situation to decide if the conflict is the problem or a symptom of something else. Just like patients, supervisees want reinforcement (either positive or negative). What are the policies and procedures? Take the time to slow down and make sure they understand the policies and procedures of their work setting.
Make sure that you document any interactions you have with the supervisee. If there is a pattern of behavior, you want to be able to show it. You cannot rely on your memory of events, as to how many instances of the behavior occurred, or the timeframe over which they occurred. Be respectful, and give and request the feedback.
Conflict can actually have benefits and can result in something very positive. It can be positive because it can change processes. A supervisee who is new to the workplace might question procedures. The initial reaction might be to put up a wall and resist change. However, they might be looking at things with fresh eyes. The conflict might make you to take a step back and look at your systems and procedures from a new perspective. It can increase the physical and emotional health within a job setting.
Develop a host relationship. Create comfort in the supervision process. It does not have to be a formal process where you are behind the desk and someone is on the other side. It can be over lunch or over a cup of coffee. Have a regularly scheduled time to give feedback and to share ideas.
Take time for self-reflection. Talk about things like fear and pride. Think about and self-reflect on you. What do you do in your downtime? What makes you fearful? What makes you proud? Like anything, self-discovery reflects a lot about how far you will go with them as a supervisor.
Kerri R. Phillips holds the SLP.D. in speech-language pathology from Nova Southeastern University. She is a Professor and Program Director for the Graduate Program in Speech-Language Pathology at Louisiana Tech University. Her research interests are ethics, supervision, outcomes data, and child language. She currently serves as the President of the National Council of State Boards of Examiners; member of the ASHA Advisory Council, and ASHA Continuing Education Board.