How Managers Encourage Conflict by Stirring the Pot
Stirring the pot means that you may (perhaps unknowingly) be causing existing problems to escalate rather than to settle down. Every person on a team isn’t going to get along 100 percent of the time with every one of his co-workers — that’s a given. Doctors take an oath to “first, do no harm,” and you, as the leader of a group, will benefit from doing the same when it comes to setting the tone for workgroup relationships.
At a minimum, assess to see whether you are encouraging conflict by
Bringing up topics in public forums that you know are uncomfortable for one or more people in your group
Pitting people against each other in what you think is friendly competition
Asking members of your team to critique their co-workers
Using sarcasm to make a point
Publicly asking for updates on an already strained situation
Using belittling or shaming language
Allowing bad behaviors to become the norm
Dividing rather than uniting
Every once in a while, you may feel like the scolding parent who wants to put the kids in timeout by separating them and telling the whole lot to go to the naughty corner. That approach may give you a bit of a breather, but it doesn’t solve the problems. Even if the corner you’re sending someone to is a different department or simply another task, one of the employees involved is going to feel as if he’s being punished — and now you’ve possibly made a situation worse than it was before you intervened.
Appearing to take sides
You may wonder how you’re not supposed to take sides when the higher-ups are looking to you to manage situations on your team. You should be able to make decisions, but how you go about making them matters to employees.
Assuming that the sales team is always right or that the apprentice has no place having a different perspective than the journeyman may get you into trouble. If you manage a team, you’re everyone’s manager — not the manager of just a select few. You may take a lot of pride in your mentoring skills, but choosing just one or two of your staff members to groom could backfire by causing the other team members to turn against your protégé.
Instead of showing favoritism, demonstrate that you’re equally interested in everyone’s career and growth path by looking for opportunities to further individual education or experience levels.