It’s a mistake to conflate good supervision and the habit of intervening in employees’ conflicts. Not only with the habit wear you out eventually and take energy away from other important responsibilities, but you will miss prime opportunities to help your staff cultivate their own good skills.
At one of my recent conflict resolution workshops, a participant shared this great case in point:
My boss had a new boss and I had made a couple of improvement suggestions for my department. The new boss just ignored my suggestions and I felt so dismissed by him! He didn’t care what ideas I had.
I finally complained to my boss about it and asked him to do something. But my boss said, “No, I won’t fix this for you. You need to go speak to him about this. I’ll give you a week and then we can talk about how it went.”
I was so scared to go speak to him that I put it off all week. Finally, it was the last day of the week my boss had given and I knew I had to go in there and talk to the new guy about my concern. Late that afternoon, I finally built up the courage and did it.
It went fine! And he didn’t ignore my ideas and suggestions anymore. I couldn’t believe it! What a lesson that was.
She has a smart boss, doesn’t she? Instead of stepping in to save the day, asked her to deal with her concerns herself, gave her a deadline so she didn’t put it off endlessly, and offered follow-up time to talk about the results (and, no doubt, help her from there if needed). He didn’t abandon her but he kept any of his own white-knight tendencies in check!