Most bosses easy to work with, finds survey

But workplace conflicts not dealt with effectively
||Last Updated: 08/27/2012

Three out of four American workers said their boss is easy to work with, according to a survey of 540 employed Americans conducted for management consultants Healthy Companies International.

Seventy-three per cent said the person to whom they report listens to others and is generally easy to work with. Another 21 per cent said their boss listens to some people and is sometimes hard to work with. Only six per cent said the boss never listens to others and is hard to work with.

“Bosses ought to be heartened by the findings,” said Stephen Parker, president of Healthy Companies International in Arlington, Va. “For the past decade, CEOs and leaders at every organizational level have been seeking ways to listen more closely to what colleagues and employees have to say, and to effectively incorporate that feedback into the way their businesses are run. Our survey suggests that leaders have been successful in their quest to open up these lines of communication.”

For many years, CEOs and top executives feared being seen as soft or unwilling to make the tough calls, he said.

“Even 15 years ago, a command-and-control approach was still too prevalent despite… But today, as our ideas on leadership have evolved, with the advent of flatter organizational structures and followers far more informed and aware of what’s possible, the challenge is getting employees passionate about the company’s mission and executing against it willingly each day."

However, 41 per cent of managers and employees think the person to whom they report does not deal well with workplace conflicts, according to another survey by Healthy Companies International of 2,700 employees

“Conflict occurs in every organization” said Parker. “Their most common sources have to do with management succession, growth strategy and execution, and balancing revenue versus modeling the company culture. A classic conflict is about inequity of roles and resources. The boss has to balance values and outcomes, not simply impose a solution.”

Bosses may even make a difficult situation worse in a number of ways, he said.

“They may fail to understand the exact nature of the issue or themselves become defensive or confrontational. Getting emotionally invested, ignoring the feelings of the people involved or denying one’s own part… each is a trap the boss can fall into.”

Inaction by the boss may also cause conflict, said Parker.

“A manager may choose to ignore inappropriate employee behaviour, overlook broken promises or missed deadlines, or permit anger to ruin team meetings. Inability to manage conflict creates more conflict.”

However, the best solution may not be just to end a dispute but to leverage the disagreement as a way of examining all the issues or alternatives.

“Conflict is oxygen and brings issues into the open. When the CEO just functions as a peacemaker, the effect may be to dampen down creativity. The challenge is to manage the conflict productively.”

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