How to Respond to Workplace Conflict

You might think talking about conflict is not very motivating, especially to kick off the week. However, Monday is the perfect time to talk about workplace conflict because we all have to deal with it. I’m not referring to full-blown, yelling at each other. Every day, we can face conflicting views, opinions, approaches to a project, or differences about when to host an event. This is an important skill to develop for any individual who has to work with others.

What’s really interesting to me is that we tend to say a particular person is difficult. Often, they are just being themselves. Just like you act like yourself. What is actually happening behind the scenes is we have “conflicting” views, opinions and thoughts. This stands in our way of being productive.

As more companies embrace collaboration, you must learn to work with other people and truly become a team player to get the work done and help your organization be more competitive.
Conflict can hold you back from being your best and giving your best. You don’t feel confident or happy when you are in conflict with co-workers or even a customer. Maybe right now you think of someone you work with whom you are in conflict. It doesn’t make you feel good, does it? It may be uncomfortable enough that you dread going to work. As long you come in contact with others, however, you will experience conflict.

Here are 14 strategies taken from my flagship administrative training program, The Star Achievement Series®.

Listen carefully in order to understand the other person’s point of view. Block out your own thoughts, judgments, and priorities and listen to the other person’s concerns and feelings.

Solicit Ideas from Each Other
Ask the other person questions like, “What do you think the problem is?” “How do you see us working better together?” “How can I help you accomplish your goals?”

Define the Problem
Are you clear on the real issue or conflict or is it just your perception? Ongoing communication helps clarify each person’s perception of the situation, ensuring that the problem is clearly defined.

Use Facts Only
Stick to the facts when confronting someone. You will get more positive results when you deal with the facts than with the emotions around them.

Acknowledge The Other Person’s Strengths
Objectively look at the situation and acknowledge the other person’s good points. Keep them in mind while dealing with the issue.

Maintain Each Other’s Self-Esteem
It’s harmful to belittle others and diminishes your professional image. When confronting colleagues, make sure you communicate in a way that allows them to save face.

Talk To Each Other; Not About Each Other
Make every effort to approach the other person directly. Don’t talk behind someone’s back. Have the courage to talk to them. This gives you an opportunity to work on solutions.

Listen For Underlying Issues
Sometimes what we think is the problem, really isn’t. When the other person is speaking, listen for any hidden issues. Try to get to the heart of the conflict so you can deal with it.

Be Open and Honest, Don’t Hint
Use assertive communication techniques. Go directly to the source, be direct and specific. Let the person know what you find acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Take Charge
Having an “attitude of taking charge” is not necessarily the same as the “skill of taking charge.” It starts with having the attitude, then developing certain skills. When you develop this attitude and fully subscribe to it, you will see others differently. You want to develop the skill to take charge in a way that you will get cooperation. People will want to do what you ask because they like and respect you, not because you bullied them into it.

Seek Help from an Outside Source
There may be situations where you are too close to the problem and too emotionally involved to use good judgment. Consult other whose judgment you trust.

Widen Your Circle
Don’t confine yourself to this one individual to set your value or be your friend. Build a wider networking circle and remain balanced in your at-work relationships and interactions.

Keep Your Perspective
When conflicted it’s easy to think everything is negative and terrible. It isn’t! Keep a gratitude list, put a favorite happy photo on your cube wall, take a walk at lunchtime or grab a coffee with a friend.

Walk Away
Sometimes you may find none of these strategies work; despite your efforts, the other person will not work with you to resolve the problem. There are times when you should not negotiate but instead, you must walk away.

• Individual is highly competitive
• Individual is unethical or illegal
• Either party is too stressed to attempt reconciliation

Wishing you the best of luck this week and in the weeks to come!

Joan Burge

Share your questions or comments regarding workplace conflict for Joan below.

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