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How Emotionally Intelligent Bosses Resolve Conflicts

Source | FastCompany : By LEE PRICE

As the boss, one of your main goals is to create a workplace that fosters collaboration, encouragement, and unity. Sounds simple enough, right? But human beings are far from simple.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts to ensure everyone works well together, there are employees who just can’t seem to get along with each other. And if you don’t handle the situation, it can wreak havoc on an otherwise solid workplace.

“These days, people leave their jobs because of ineffective leaders and toxic work teams, even more so than for low pay,” says Marcia Reynolds, author of The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations Into Breakthroughs. “And they will stay with good leaders and teams they enjoy working with, even if they are offered more money elsewhere.”

Follow these tips to help your direct reports mend fences and move forward.


“The fact that people disagree isn’t a bad thing,” says Amy Gallo, author of the HBR Guide to Managing Conflict at Work. “It’s how we manage conflict that can be damaging to productivity.”

However, not every little squabble requires you to get involved. For everyday friction that occurs at work, give people space to disagree and work things out. But when a disagreement becomes personal, or when it’s affecting the work, then it’s time for you to intervene.

The first step to finding peace: Talk to both parties separately, says Lindred Greer, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Start with one-on-one conversations, Gallo says, and help each person do the important initial work of “seeing the other person’s perspective, understanding their own emotions, and preparing for the conversation.”

Your job is to make sure you have the complete story and give everyone a chance to voice their grievances. “Often conflicts erupt because one person doesn’t feel heard,” Gallo says. “Just making someone feel heard can help.”


It can be difficult for someone to put into words exactly why they feel slighted. “Most of us have a very limited emotional vocabulary,” Gallo explains. To help employees dig deeper and better understand their own feelings about the situation, ask questions that focus on their emotions. For example, “if you’re disappointed versus angry, you’re going to act very differently,” Gallo says.

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