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How to deal with conflicts with colleagues
Nobody agrees with everyone all the time. In fact, lots of people disagree most of the time. Just because people have differences of opinion doesn’t necessarily mean that either party is fundamentally wrong. Having people with different opinions working together is essential for success at any company. Conflicts can also inspire creativity and innovation when they’re dealt with properly. But what should you do when a difference of opinion at work turns sour, and threatens harmony among the ranks?
Conflicts are common in many organisations and one of the main reasons for conflicts in the workplace is that both parties are unwilling to admit defeat on an issue. By continually trying to avoid direct conflict or tension, it is often exacerbated. Trying to please everyone without standing up for ourselves can also lead us to act passive-aggressively, which is really anger expressed with a smile. The healthiest workplace relationships don’t shun confrontation, but learn how to navigate it well.
Dealing with minor individual conflicts
When they’re small it is easiest to deal with conflicts immediately. Like any other social skill, being assertive is a learned skill and takes practice. It’s much easier to speak up at the start of a conflict instead of trying to wait it out. If you have a hard time being direct with people close to you, look for opportunities to practice with strangers, such as calling to negotiate your credit card interest rate or phone bill.
You may also need to rethink your idea of conflict. Being assertive or speaking your mind isn’t nasty, selfish, or aggressive. Conflicts aren’t always bad – they are in fact often necessary for change - and even angry confrontations can be constructive. These may be hard to believe when you’re non-confrontational, but it’s true.
The way you manage conflict is extremely important; handle it badly and things can quickly turn ugly. Avoiding dealing with a conflict never works; it breeds resentment and allows the conflict to build to breaking point, by which time it may be too late to repair.
The hardest part can be taking the first step. You’ll need to arrange a meeting with the other party or parties; if you bring it up unexpectedly it may feel like an attack. This is especially important if you are dealing with a conflict among your team members. You must be seen to be a fair and neutral party, with everyone offered the same courtesies during the resolution process.
Consider the following points when you’ve decided to try and find a solution:
- Seek to resolve a conflict sooner rather than later, not just for your own sake; your whole team could suffer if there’s unnecessary tension in the office.
- Make a list of the points you want to discuss beforehand. Without preparing for a conversation you may end up arguing and make things worse. Have a conversation not an altercation.
- Tell the other person/people why it’s important to you to resolve the conflict. Point out that spending your days in conflict with each other could be bad for productivity and the office atmosphere.
- Never assume someone has done or said something out of spite; they might have a perfectly valid reason for their actions, which is why it’s important to clarify the situation.
- Don’t be tempted into thinking you have to prove the other party wrong, fighting it out won’t get you anywhere, so aim to compromise.
- Set a mutual goal, such as promising you will always hear the other person out, even if you disagree with what they say.
Be the bigger person
Always keep in mind that you want to reach a resolution to avoid the same thing happening in the future. Remember that that you can be assertive without being aggressive. In some cases, when the conflict is out of hand and affecting your work, you might consider speaking to someone in your HR department. HR will have methods and advice for how to resolve a conflict at work in your particular organisation.
If you’re struggling with conflict at work and haven’t managed to resolve it effectively, maybe it’s time to look for a new job? Submit your CV with Page Personnel now.