Managing workplace conflict with a coworker doesn’t have to be difficult. In this article are seven steps that can help you deal with a conflict and even improve your work relationship.
1. See workplace conflict as an opportunity. Your perception of conflict has a direct impact on how it plays out in your life. If you embrace conflict and see it as an opportunity to better a situation or a relationship, then you’ll take on the challenge of seeing the confrontation through, regardless of how hard it may be, because you know that the ultimate benefit of working through a conflict will be worth it in the long run for both you and your working relationship with the other person. Begin by breaking away from the following myths that conflict is negative and that conflict is about winning and losing.
2. Choose your battles Take on the issues that matter to you and/or that impede you from being as effective as possible on the job and let the rest go. Life’s too short to be wasting any of your valuable time and energy on issues that ultimately don’t matter or that don’t impact you in a detrimental way.
Identify the benefits of resolving the problem for you, for your coworker, and for the people impacted by this conflict. If the benefits of resolving your workplace conflict outweigh the cost of not resolving it, then you need to address the problem even if it is uncomfortable.
3. Do your homework
The more prepared you are to address and resolve a conflict, the better you’ll do. This includes taking the time to think through the conflict or issue(s), relevant past experience, personality dynamics and desired outcomes before engaging in an authentic conversation to resolve a conflict with your coworker. It’s no different than preparing for an exam. With preparation, you become more focused, confident and in control of your emotions.
* Always remember that the people who trigger you the most are often your best teachers. These people bring out your vulnerabilities, hot buttons and insecurities that actually end up revealing more about you than about them. That doesn’t mean that your conflict is less legitimate, but just don’t forget to include yourself when examining the problem. You’d be surprised what you might learn.
* If you find yourself judging another person’s actions without knowing the intent behind those actions, ask that person first what they meant or why they did what they did before attributing any motives to them. What you will often discover is that there was a well-meaning or humorous intention that went astray. Wouldn’t you want others to do the same with you?
* Consider thinking through these questions prior to talking out a conflict.
- What’s your desired outcome for both the relationship and the conflicting issue?
- Are you willing to hear the problem described from the other party’s perspective, including how you might have contributed to the conflict?
- Are you willing to compromise in order to reach an agreement?
- If the conflict should happen to escalate, do you have an exit strategy?
4. Take the initiative
Conflict is not about who’s right or wrong, who’s more at fault, or who should be the first one to apologize to the other. The fact is that if the conflict is bothering you, then it is yours to resolve. Waiting for the other party to come to you doesn’t help you address the problem; it only prolongs it.
Never hold on to an issue, a wrongdoing, or an unresolved conflict. Find a way to address it, resolve it, or let it go. This is about you taking care of you.
If emotions are high and/or you don’t feel safe initiating a conversation with the other person, consider a third party facilitator/mediator to intervene.
5. Understand the other party’s point of view before expressing your own.
It will put the other person at ease knowing that their concerns have been heard and validated. When people feel listened to and acknowledged, they have a tendency to relax and lower their defenses. This not only helps ease the conversation, but increases the likelihood that the other party will be more willing to hear your side of the story. Active listening allows the other party to vent and provides clarity for you on the problem from his or her perspective. It shows you are willing to collaborate and helps diffuse any anger the other party may have. It provides you with information that you may not have had, allowing you to respond from a more informed perspective.
6. Seek mutually beneficial solutions to resolve your workplace conflict. Be willing to come up with a third alternative.
Successfully managing conflict means having the ability not only to bring an issue to resolution but also to do it in a respectful, professional and collaborative manner with the other person. If you always treat the other party in a conflict with respect, you will have discovered the quickest way to resolution. If emotions are high, you are better off postponing a confrontation until you can be calm, reasonable and rational. Dumping your emotions might make you feel better, but if it is at the expense of coworker, you could end up making things alot worse.
Keep the discussion on the conflict/issue and stay away from personal attacks. By separating the issue from the person, you have a much greater chance for resolution of your conflict.
* Follow these steps when addressing a workplace conflict:
Begin by acknowledging the importance of having an effective working relationship with the other person.
- Tell the other person that the purpose of your conversation is to share a concern that you feel is impacting your working relationship with them.
- Describe the particular behavior that is causing a problem for you.
- Explain how the behavior is impacting your ability to get your work done.
- Propose a solution.
- Seek the other person’s input. Allow them to talk and actively listen without interrupting.
- Get agreement for your proposed solution or the solution that the two of you came up with together.
- Talk about how to handle any potential problems in the future before they occur
- Thank the other person for their willingness to listen to you and for wanting to make things work.
- Follow up with the other party a week later to make sure that things are working better.
Good luck. I would love to know what happens!