There’s a bind for supervisors in the workplace, when they act as mediators, inserting themselves into conflicts between their employees, whether they want to insert themselves, or they are compelled to insert themselves.
When one employee won’t move, shift or change their approach to conflicts with their co-workers in any meaningful way and the mediator, acting as the supervisor, that party may try to maneuver the supervisor into a stalemate. This maneuvering could appear in three forms:
- Game playing the mediation/supervision process through telling the supervisor one story, and then telling the other employees another story.
- Gossiping by telling the mediation/supervisor nothing at all—or actively avoiding the interaction with the mediator/supervisor (or any other passive aggressive acts)—and then passing around a story about the other party in conflict.
- Harassing the other party in the conflict and, sometimes harassing (or intimidating) the mediator/supervisor into making a decision favorable to them in resolving the conflict.
Stalemate makes the mediator/supervisor as the third party feel powerless, impotent and feel as if they have no chance to affect change in the outcomes of the conflict process.
But stalemate is really a checkmate—imposed upon the instigating party who won’t move—initiated by the mediator/supervisor, sometimes not consciously and based on the stories that the mediator/supervisor is telling themselves about the conflict process.
Which means the power really lies with the mediator/supervisor and not the party who thinks they have the power, the instigator of the conflict process, and the other party in the process who may be looking to escalate the conflict to satisfy their own motives.
Other mediator/supervisors in the past may have given up their power, to the two parties in conflict before, but that doesn’t mean that the current person has to continue those patterns of behaviors.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org