How to handle conflict in the workplace

How to handle conflict in the workplace

13 November 2017

Anywhere there are groups of people working together then there’ll also be competing ideas, values and beliefs. And that can mean that even the most cohesive teams can still experience conflict in the workplace.

Conflict with a work mate or colleague can simmer away over time or take you by surprise. It might start off as a difficult conversation or escalate quickly into resentment which can in turn lead to underperformance at work and a general feeling of uneasiness.

It boils down to the fact that experiencing conflict in the workplace is almost inevitable. How you handle that conflict can help you build up resilience and earn the respect of your manager.

We’ve pulled together five fast tips to help you manage conflict in your workplace:

1. Deal with it quickly and calmly

Conflict often starts small but escalates over time as more people become involved and share opinions. This often distracts from the issue – think carefully through what caused the conflict in the first place, gather the facts and ignore accusations. Stay calm and put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

2. You’re in control of the way you feel

An important management lesson (and a typically tough one to learn) is that while we do not have the power to change other people, we do have the power control the way we react in any situation. Often emotions and passion can override common sense. Taking the high road can sometime feel like a bitter pill to swallow, but once the situation is resolved you’ll be proud of how you conducted yourself.

3.  Call the issue, not the person

A conflict with a co-worker who just rubs you the wrong way is a great opportunity to dig up all those frustrating things they do and let’em have it! Tempting, but no. Removing personalities out of the mix ensures you are only focusing on the issue at hand. If things get off track, keep bringing it back to the issue and the facts. This will help you avoid getting personal and escalating the conflict.

4. Find common ground

Every workplace is about compromise. It’s how high performing teams and organisations move forward together. Digging your heels in and refusing to budge from your point of view will only make things worse. Find something you can agree on, no matter how small, and start there.

5. There is a lot to be said for positivity

It is a real skill to be able to leave the issue on the field and finish the conversation on a positive note.  Phrases like “thank you for taking the time to work this through with me” or “I’m happy we have been able to find a way to move forward” can help reduce the tension and foster a mutual respect.

Need more tips and tools for handling conflict at work? Read more about MiTraining’s Handling Conflict at Work short course or enroll now.

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