Unfortunately, conflict really does seem to be a fact of workplace life. It stands to reason that when you have so many different people with different feelings and views, somewhere along the line, someone is going to disagree. The good news is that conflict can actually be a very important tool for furthering workplace growth, and helping employees for a more cohesive group. If everyone agreed on everything all the time, nothing would ever change. Change is a positive force in the ever-changing business world, and one most workplaces actually want to encourage. So having a good knowledge base of conflict resolution can be immensely valuable for you and your fellow employees.
An important aspect of conflict resolution is addressing it openly, and with a listening attitude. So often, these disagreements between employees can boil over into larger, more tense problems simply because they are ignored. Whether you work in a high profile legal firm, or in an auto body shop, it is equally vital that all employees feel valued, understood, and not threatened by hostile situations. A basic conflict resolution course is a great place to start, but let’s look at some of the main types of conflict resolution styles you can begin using right away:
Take the Lid off the Pressure Cooker
Conflict creates stress. Whether we realize it or not, one or more parties involved in the conflict may be nearing a breaking point. If someone feels threatened, meaning anything from a threat to their job security, their integrity, or even a true, physical threat, they are likely to be incredibly stressed. You can not progress in this problem while an involved party feels that way. They physically can not concentrate on anything other than the way they are feeling, and that is why it’s critical to address the mounting tension as soon as possible.
How you choose to accomplish this may depend a lot on the nature of your workplace. Before you do anything, it is usually advisable to involve a superior. If nothing else, this creates an awareness of the situation higher up the ladder, and that can lead to an ultimately better solution. However you decide to proceed, come at it from the angle of reducing the stress.
Opening with a line like “I know you are feeling really tense right now, and I didn’t intend for that to happen. Let’s talk about how we can fix this.” That lets the person know that you understand them, have been thinking of them, and want to help them feel better. It’s a disarming way to approach the problem, because it shows that you value this person, even if you disagree.
On the other hand, you may be the party feeling threatened, and in that scenario, approaching the source of your stress directly might be intimidating. In this case, absolutely involve someone else. Either a superior, or a sympathetic coworker who can remain somewhat neutral. When you explain your situation to them, talk frankly about the level of tension you are experiencing and how it is effecting your work. Clearing the air will help you feel less nervous, while also getting your conflict on record with someone else.
Recognize Your Own Emotions, and Adapt Accordingly
Conflicts are emotionally driven. There is no getting around it. That is why it is so important to take a minute to assess how you are feeling, and try to discern why. If you can’t articulate these feelings, you can’t effectively address them. Anger, fear and sadness are all very strong feelings, and ones often associated with workplace conflict. We may be caught up in the struggle between the way we feel, and the way it is appropriate to act at work. In these cases, we often try to suppress or ignore the way we are feeling, and hope it will pass.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it does nothing to address the larger issue, and in fact allows it to continue making you feel bad. It is vital that you allow yourself to feel angry, or sad or afraid so that you can pinpoint exactly what is wrong. Coming to the realization that a recent round of layoffs has left you feeling demoralized is a great starting point for going to your boss for reassurance. Likewise, realizing that another employee’s use of crude language is upsetting you is cause for speaking to them about it. Realizing how you feel, and why you feel that way is incredibly important to solving conflicts.
Make Your Actions Speak as Loud as Your Words
Let’s imagine a situation where you’re speaking with a coworker about a problem you’ve been having. As you explain yourself, you notice that their arms are crossed, they are looking at the floor a lot, and their answers are short and noncommittal. Do you think that was a successful conversation? Probably not. Body language has an awful lot to do with conflict resolution, and you may be giving off signals you don’t realize.
When speaking with others, you want to make sure you are not coming off as overly aggressive, or overly closed off. Something as simple as standing over the other person while they are seated creates an environment wherein you have the upper hand. That might be very intimidating to the other person, and they are not likely to respond well to that. A clear voice, an open and easy stance and a continual focus on the other person are going to go miles in terms of resolving the issue.
Go Ahead and Crack a Joke
Humor can do a lot for a conflict. Pointing out the absurdity of the situation, and having a laugh at it, can make everyone involved feel less tense, and more open to resolution. Naturally, you do not ever want to make a joke at someone else’s expense, nor do you want to make yourself look ridiculous. Still, humor can be a great means of expressing something you are a little too nervous to bring up in another way.
Imagine a situation where two coworkers are both vying for the same promotion, and are therefore at odds with one another all day. A good way to address that tension might be saying something like, “Look, I know we’re supposed to be enemies right now, but will you at least split a pizza with me?” Suddenly, the overall topic has been addressed, but also immediately applied to an altogether silly situation. If one or more parties now wishes to speak about it openly, there is a safer, more relaxed feeling, and that is likely to get more results.
Also, sharing a joke can actually lead to greater opportunities for friendship. Sometimes, the people we perceive as adversaries in the workplace are simply people we haven’t gotten to know yet. Letting them laugh with you might be just the thing needed to open up to one another. Once you are speaking more easily, you might find that your disagreement is not as serious as you thought it was.
Conflict is stressful, aggravating and time consuming. Having the right skills to deal with it can streamline the resolution process, and keep your workplace a setting you enjoy being in. Udemy has many courses available to help get you started. Check out the following for more info: