Keeping the Peace at Work
Learn How to Manage Work Conflict and Use Contention for Growth
Conflict. Simply seeing the word probably made you tense up a little. No one likes “conflict” and most people do everything they can in their power to avoid it. But, what if conflict wasn’t seen as a bad thing? What if we saw conflict as a tool for personal growth and a learning opportunity?
Conflict is a normal part of any relationship, work or otherwise. After all, there’s no way a group of people can agree on everything all the time. And why would we want to? Echo chambers can become quite boring and don’t provide room for growth and change, which are necessary for a healthy workplace environment.
Disagreements, when not handled properly, can often lead to arguments. However, when approached effectively and openly, disagreements can lead to growth opportunities on both an individual and team level. By learning effective skills for conflict resolution, you use contention to keep your personal and professional relationships strong and growing.
Here are five tips for handling work conflicts effectively:
1. Listen with the Intent to Understand.
In any conflict, it is important for both parties to truly be heard. Often times, people have a habit of listening with the intent to respond rather than understand. When you really listen, you connect more deeply with your needs as well as the other person’s needs. When you spend more energy wanting to be heard rather than seeking to listen and understand, heated arguments are more likely to arise. By dedicating yourself to listening, you’re creating space in the disagreement for open-mindedness and non-judgemental sharing of one another’s ideas. To effectively listen - avoid interrupting the other person, ask questions for clarification, and try to show understanding of their view rather than react defensively.
2. Be Objective.
It’s easy to bring our emotions into arguments and become defensive - making accusations, pointing fingers, deflecting blame, and making excuses. However, people are more likely to respond peacefully if the reasons for the argument are purely objective. This means rather than pointing fingers and blame or bringing up previous conflicts, be direct and engage in a way that focuses only on the situation at hand. For instance, use positive language and try replacing “When you do this…” with “When this happens…” and see how much more receptive the other person is.
3. Pick Your Battles.
Knowing when something isn’t worth the battle is … well ... half the battle. Conflicts can be emotionally and mentally taxing. Sometimes it’s easier and more beneficial to our mental health to simply “let it go.” Choosing your battles wisely is a trait that shows emotional maturity. If you’ve already brought your conflict to the surface, focus on achieving a resolution rather than needing to be right. If you work toward a resolution and can’t come to an agreement with the other person, it’s okay to disengage from the argument and simply “agree to disagree.”
4. Clearly Identify the Points of Conflict.
Once all ideas and points of view are out on the table, summarize the areas of agreement and disagreement to make sure everyone is on the same page. By identifying these points clearly, you are establishing a point to work from and move forward into developing a plan to resolve each conflict. When doing this, be sure to prioritize the conflicts and begin with the most important one. Once a resolution plan is developed, offer compromises where needed and focus on follow-through with a collaborative attitude.
5. Build on Your Success.
Use methods of positive reinforcement during the conflict resolution period. Don’t hesitate to compliment each other’s insights and achievements. By looking for opportunities to point out progress, you’re setting the groundwork for effectively resolving future conflicts while promoting personal growth and teamwork.
Encourage your employees to bring conflicts to your attention so you can help guide them in a solution-driven conversation. Disagreements will arise, but they don’t have to wreak havoc on your work environment. Try some of these techniques next time you come across a conflict in the workplace for quicker and more effective problem-solving.
Nicole Pellegrini is a blogger, designer and content marketer originally from New York and currently based in Los Angeles, CA. She is the creator of the professional lifestyle blog, Candy Revolver. Her favorite topics to write about are personal development, self-care and making a career out of your passion.