Supervisor Training and Helping Supervisors Manage Stress

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Stress Management Secrets
for Supervisors

Ever since occupational program consultant Art Purvis, a former employee of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management first coined the term "The Lone Ranger Syndrome", workforce management professionals have considered how they can help supervisors cope with stress, depression, and loneliness "at the top".

TIPs for Supervisors . . .
Resolve Conflict Among Employees
By Staying Above the Fray

Just as parents undergo stress when their kids act up, supervisors dread when their employees clash with each other. Figuring out how to respond is a complicated and treacherous part of the job.

Playing referee triggers a cascade of stress. There’s the harrowing task of having to cool down explosive tempers, the anxiety of making sure you don’t take sides and the fear that a two-person conflict can escalate and envelop an entire unit.

The first rule of supervising warring workers is to wait, watch and listen. You should not rush to intervene in a dispute.

By getting involved too soon, you condition employees to think that they’ll attract your attention by fighting. And some people crave their supervisor’s attention--and will do anything to get it.

Your instant engagement also signals to everyone on your team that when conflict erupts, you will step in right away. They will conclude: I don’t have to take responsibility for solving this conflict because my supervisor will settle us down.

The best stress-relieving approach is to monitor the situation without intervening. In most cases, you cannot bring about lasting peace simply by demanding it. Combatants need to determine for themselves how to get along. As long as you hold them accountable for performing their jobs effectively without disrupting the workplace, then time may heal their wounds.

In some instances, however, a dispute can easily engulf your whole unit and you cannot remain on the sidelines. Examples:

Aggressive, spiteful bullying with the potential for a physical altercation;

Angry accusations of prejudice or harassment; or

Slander against you, your bosses or the organization.

If you must intervene, interview combatants together in your office without a table. Sit between them so that you serve as a physical barrier if they threaten to become belligerent.

Instruct them to talk to you, not each other. If they violate that rule, interrupt immediately to draw their attention back to you. Maintain a neutral facial expression the whole time.

Express faith in people to work together. Snide cracks such as, “Why do I have to get stuck supervising the two of you!” will not help you alleviate your stress or resolve their conflict.

TIP: The first step to settle employee conflict is to get them to agree about something. Ask questions that begin “Would you both agree to that…?” or “So everyone accepts that…?”

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