Workplace conflict is something anyone who works in an office is going to face at some point. Yet when you’re faced with it, you may hesitate to deal with it head on it for many reasons :
- You don’t want to make the issue worse
- You don’t want to cause permanent damage to a work relationship
- You may fear backlash
- You may fear being labeled a **** disturber
- You’re unsure how to talk about the problem
- You may believe conflict is synonymous with fighting and you don’t like fighting
Here are 10 Tips to help you handle workplace conflict like a pro:
- Don’t react… respond. Reaction is a instant thing – usually without thought. As difficult as it may be, take some time to get perspective before you say anything. Cool down and take a close look at where your reactions and emotions are coming from. Now, you’ll be in a better position to respond.
- Be aware of your feelings. Conflict can lead to immediate anger. Anger is not a basic emotion, however. Fear is usually the feeling that lies directly under anger. Fears that can lead to anger are: being taken advantage of; losing control; having something taken away (as when someone else takes credit for your work); being falsely accused of something; even fear of losing a job or status.The interesting thing about becoming aware of the feeling underneath anger: the intensity of the feeling disappears very quickly.
- Focus on the issue, not the other person. Stick to the facts and state your case calmly, and clearly. Don’t bring up their annoying habits or problems you’ve had with them in the past.
- Try to understand the other person’s point. Step into their shoes for just a minute. It’s amazing how different things may look from where they stand. If you can’t image how they feel, or what they believe, you may need to ask them. Just listen – don’t defend your own position.
- Focus on mutual problem solving. Ask a few simple questions: What happened here? How can we solve this problem? How can we prevent a similar problem in the future? Remember: you are looking for a solution where both of you can win. If either of you walk away feeling like you lost and the other person won, you haven’t solved anything.
- Pick your fights. Sometimes a problem is just not worth getting upset about. But – and here’s a big BUT – if you find yourself talking to everyone else about it, it’s an issue you need to handle with the person involved.
- Timing is everything. If you or the other person is angry, tired, or highly stressed, that’s not the best time to try to discuss your issues or problem solve. Make an appointment that will work for both of you and come back to the issue when both of you are at your best.
- Keep your negotiations private. It may seem beneficial to “have it out” in a public forum, but that’s usually not the case. Making your conflict public just creates opportunity for others to take sides. Confronting another in public also makes it more likely that things will be said that will make the situation worse. You may find that taking the person you’re in conflict with aside, and speaking to them privately, will greatly increased their respect for you.
- Keep the conflict private. Not only should you speak one-on-one with the person you are having conflict with, make a commitment to limit you discussions to that person directly. It’s toxic to a workplace to discuss what is going on with others. It serves no purpose other than to stir up more trouble. When you discuss a problem with anyone other than the other party involved, nothing will be solved. Your hard feelings, anger and resentment will build as you spread the word, creating sympathy for either yourself or the other person and polarizing the whole workplace. Bitching to others solves nothing. Be a bigger person and deal with your conflict head-on in a constructive, problem solving spirit.
- Ask a third party for help. If you find your efforts to calmly talk to the other person doesn’t help and no resolution seems possible, you have two choices:
- Speak to a manager or the Human Resources Department in your company, or
- Begin documenting the conflict. Keep copies of all hateful or spiteful memos, e-mails, letters, and conversations. Record the time, date and circumstances of all relevant contact with the other person. At some point you’ll need to decide who you will take your documentation to. Is there a senior manager you can approach within the company? If your problem become serious enough you may decide to take your case to a lawyer or make a human rights claim.
Have you had success handling conflict in the workplace? Please share what worked for you in the comments section below.