Business leaders already wear a number of hats in the workplace. In the course of one workday, an executive or manager can be a coach, a caretaker and, in some rare instances, a cop. Managing conflict between employees sometimes requires leaders to choose from a variety of different approaches, and how they choose to respond can have a lasting impact on how employees respond to them in the future.
Executive coach and co-founder of DLC Executive Coaching and Consulting Kiki Wiengarten has devoted a lot of time to helping business leaders learn how to manage conflicts among their employees, and she delineates some of the different roles leaders can play when trying to resolve them:
Authoritarian: Weingarten says leaders can take the no-nonsense approach and resolve the conflict unilaterally by laying down the law. The end-result is a swiftly decided outcome, but one that runs the risk of fomenting further dissent and dissatisfaction down the line.
Good Cop, Bad Cop: This approach requires a partner, Weingarten says, but can be effective because it combines the authoritarian approach with one that tries to reassure employees that someone is willing to listen to them and their concerns.
Mediator: In this approach, leaders listen to both sides of the argument and try to foster a compromise solution to the situation. This approach can be effective because it allows both employees to feel as if their concerns are being addressed, but it also requires the two sides to come to a mutual agreement, which may not always be possible, and requires a good deal of time.
Mentor: Being a mentor to employees during conflict resolution requires a lot of interpersonal skill, Weingarten says, which is something that business leaders may not have the ability or time to provide. With this approach, leaders try to resolve the conflict while helping the employees involved learn to avoid similar conflicts in the future.