Whether it’s a genuine personality clash or a misunderstanding, workplace conflict can weigh heavily on growing businesses that may be stunted by drama.
While conflict is sometimes unavoidable, it’s not always easy to resolve. For employees, unresolved work issues can lead to demotivation, disillusionment and general dissatisfaction. Productivity and company culture become collateral damage.
As a former senior police office, author and self-help guru Kul Mahay has managed a lot of high-pressure scenarios where tempers have the tendency to flare.
According to Mahay, resolving workplace conflict can take up time for both the employees and managers – but that most cases can easily be fixed early on.
Why it happens
Workplace conflict is a natural consequence of working towards a certain set of goals with a group of people. However, it’s important to remember that not everyone will have the same approach.
It is also easy to find yourself at the centre of a disagreement with a colleague due to the amount of time spent in the office.
While confrontation is never nice, by choosing the right time and place to talk, understanding other people’s opinions and learning to compromise, issues can easily be resolved.
“When we hear the word conflict, we can’t help but feel some level of trepidation or apprehension. After all, none of us enjoy any kind of confrontation. But to expect to go through life without any kind of conflict is simply not realistic,” Mahay says.
“Some level of conflict has to be expected in all areas of our lives. It is through these disagreements and misunderstandings that we grow and learn.
“Conflict in the workplace is not a rare occurrence, but the sad thing is that the vast majority of conflict could easily be resolved if all parties were to adopt certain strategies from the outset.
“The strategies are not rocket science but very often, in ‘the heat of battle,’ we can allow our emotions to drive our thinking and behaviour rather than a clear, logical mind.”
Here are Mahay’s ten strategies to resolve conflict at work.
Learn to breathe
When you suddenly find yourself in a situation that fills you with emotion, get yourself into the practice of taking some deep breaths and counting to ten slowly. This will allow your conscious mind to kick in and think through the situation and respond more objectively.
Everyone has something to say
Some people use aggression as a method to silence their ‘opponents’ during conflict. While it might silence one party, they will more likely harbour resentment or lose respect for the other. During every conflict, it is important to remember that everyone is allowed an equal opportunity to voice his or her opinions. This ensures a balanced discussion takes place, before you can start looking for a resolution.
Choose the time and place
If there is tension between you and a colleague, choose a certain time and place where you can have a conversation with them about the issue that has upset you. This will ensure that when it comes to seeking a resolution, it is not tarnished by built up resentment on both sides.
Gossip – The Killer Issue
Gossip is one of the most common and yet destructive pastimes in office environments. It can lead to mistrust, bad feelings and very often anger among colleagues. If you are invited into gossiping by a colleague, try to change the subject, let them know that is of no interest to you or politely remove yourself from that group.
Mind your language
In the heat of the moment it is all too easy to use language that attacks the other person on a personal level. By doing this, recognise that it cannot lead to a healthy debate and is much more likely to put the other person in a defensive state. It can also lead to further confrontation. Instead, use professional, objective language to put forward your views. This will ensure that you come across as calm and there is more a chance of compromise as you move forward.
Don’t make it personal
It is important to be open to constructive criticism or feedback. It might not feel very nice but it is professional feedback at the end of the day. Don’t take everything so personally. See it for what it is and stop imagining that it is how people see you as a person.
Make sure you understand the other person’s perspective
Pay real attention to what the other person is saying. You may hear something that gives you a different take on the situation yourself and it might resolve the conflict much quicker. At the very least, your colleague will note that you are genuinely listening to what they have to say.
Compromise is not about giving up on your ideas but adjusting them so that there is greater likelihood of achieving them in partnership with others. It can also build and improve your own ideas by including another person’s perspective. If you do not compromise the chances of reaching any resolution are weak at best.
Mediators can help both parties talk through the situation in an objective manner. Mediation is not about blame but about enlightenment. A trained third party hearing the discussion can cut through a lot of the emotional issues that are clouding it and add an impartial perspective to the situation. It helps to bring the conflict to an objective, level playing field.
Conflict is natural
Don’t put your head in the sand and pretend that conflict will never happen to you – it will. At some point or another you will have a difference of opinion.
Do not let that fester or gather momentum. Deal with the other person in a professional, relaxed and objective manner and you will enjoy healthy relationships with your colleagues.
Kul Mahay is a motivational speaker and author, who has recently published the book Smash The Habit, which aims to help readers banish bad behaviour and toxic habits.
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