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4.2 Dealing with Conflicts


Conflicts are normal in (professional) life. A conflict is a problematic situation between at least two parties, where each party wishes its own interest will be fulfilled and thinks that this will happen at the cost of the other.


It is advisable to tackle conflicts rapidly. The supervisor understands the art of preventing the escalation by, in a professional manner, putting the problems open to discussion.



  • Remain calm!
  • Find a suitable place where you can sit down and talk.
  • Listen to what the trainees say and try and pick up any underlying causes of unhappiness or stress.
  • Question the trainees in a calm way, put them at ease and give him the chance to speak freely.
  • Say in other words what the trainee said so that problems can be seen in a different way.
  • Focus on what would be a reasonable outcome for everyone!


The supervisor can be an outsider or one of the two parties in the conflict (with the trainees, a colleague, a superior, an outsider), and can be involved directly or indirectly.

  • The conflict remains limited to a disagreement: talk it over!
  • The supervisor has been directly involved:
    • Both: let off steam and put emotions in words;
    • Both: say what the error of the other is;
    • Both: say very concretely what should be changed;
    • Together: negotiate to what both are prepared;
    • Together: make arrangements and possibly fix these.
  • The supervisor has been indirectly involved:
    • Exert your power, your influence;
    • Arbitrate; call upon laws, appointments, principles and traditions;
    • Mediate. When you try to mediate, the bottleneck is often the beginning of the conversation: one of the parties does not wish to talk. Try the following arguments:
      • “What if we do not talk?”
      • “It’s not a question of right or wrong, but of working together.”
      • “Cooperating professionally doesn’t need to be love.”


Prevention is better than cure: you can avoid an escalation. It is easier to prevent a conflict:

  • in a culture of openness and feedback,
  • if all goes well in communication.