As a member of a company, constant conflict can affect you significantly. Waking up in the morning and knowing that you will have to face certain situations at work can make you feel very uncomfortable. A lack of motivation or productivity can even affect your physical health, so never underestimate the stress caused by conflict with other people! We will you give some key conflict resolution methods to make your life easier again.
Almost 85% of employees experience conflict in the workplace in some form. Some would say that they constantly experience it, either with their colleagues or with their superiors. The stress from these conflicts can often lead to absence or sickness. So, if you are having a conflict in your workplace right now, don’t worry – you are not the only one! Conflict resolution is very important, not only for your work performance, but also for your mental health. Let’s find an effective communication method to resolve these issues for you and your colleagues today.
What creates a conflict?
Why do conflicts happen in the workplace? There can be a number of causes of workplace conflict, among them: opposing interests, heavy workloads, workplace stress, competitive tensions, performance discrepancies, personality clashes, egos, misunderstandings, pride, jealousy, or even just someone having a bad day. In a company, everyone has different opinions and different philosophies – therefore disagreements often occur. It is important to have an effective method to merge these differences and make sure no one is left out. If unmanaged, these can escalate from a simple work conflict into much larger interpersonal clashes which will also affect everyone else and can contaminate the office atmosphere. To maintain a positive work culture, you should act as soon as possible with effective conflict resolution.
A common mistake in conflict resolution
The worst thing you can do is “ignore the issue.” How many times have you seen a person avoid confrontation and just hope the problem goes away? Time does not heal all conflict in the workplace. In reality, the situation quickly deteriorates if not dealt with properly. Even when the conflict seems to be put to rest, emotions and opinions will still often be bubbling under the surface. Another common mistake is taking things a little too personally leading to emotional reactions. This happens when someone could not express the problem effectively, often not knowing the underlying problem themselves. We are all human at the end of the day, and we want our opinions to be validated. The healthy way to resolve conflict is to express yourself in a constructive way instead of pushing those feelings down. So, what can you do exactly in order to express yourself in this situation.
1. Prepare yourself
The most important thing is that you ‘prepare’ for the talk. Before making any assumptions, clarify the fact or incident that you wish to discuss. This helps you express yourself clearly and rationally without getting lost in the conversation. Also, keeping in mind the cause and the outcome allows you to think logically rather than being sideswiped by an emotional response. The only goal here is that the problem gets solved, not who wins or is in the right.
Knowing yourself helps you stay calm! Did you know that anger comes from a part of our brain called the amygdala? The amygdala recognizes threats, warns us, and makes us more aggressive. When you face conflict, the amygdala creates the feeling of unpleasantness to protect yourself, but it can be easily controlled. The important thing is to find out the source of your anger. Once you acknowledge the amygdala monster you will feel much calmer!
2. Set up a meeting to resolve the conflict
When approaching the subject, make sure that the meeting is one-on-one and face to face. If both parties agree, it can be beneficial to have a mediator who is not involved in the problem. It could be your team manager, someone from HR, or an impartial helper from another team. In the case of inviting a mediator, it is important that the mediator meets both parties together, not individually, to prevent any misunderstandings.
Talk about the common goal right from the beginning. What’s the reason for you having this conversation? How long will you take to discuss it? Give everyone the same chance to speak up and clarify their side of the problem. The reason being: everyone has a different perspective, so it’s better to be on the same page in the first place. This will also help your conversation stay goal oriented.
3. Focus on behavior not personality
Everyone makes mistakes… even managers. It is easy to blame someone when they make a mistake. However, blaming them or zeroing in on their personality can quickly create a toxic atmosphere in the workplace. Remember, the goal is to get the problem solved, and you can point out an individual’s mistake without blaming them. Lack of respect is something we want to avoid with our colleagues.
Instead, focus on their behavior or the process of their work. Was any information lost in translation or in the delivery process? Were there any technical issues? Is there any way to improve your miscommunication? Try and find the exact point where the mistake was made. It’s always best to be mindful of your tone and word choice and be sure to let the person know that you are here to discuss the issue, not attack them!
4. Listen and discuss the barriers to the common goal
When handling conflict resolution, listening and recognizing an individual’s frustration validates what they’re feeling. As much as we would like to keep things professional and practical, we are all human. Feelings are always involved with conflict and no one is happy when it occurs. Showing that you are actively listening to an individual creates a safe space and a sense of security which will also be helpful for future conflict.
With these listening skills in place, you can finally move on to the crucial points you wish to discuss. Who or what has brought you into conflict? What can be preventing you from achieving your goals together? What can and cannot be changed in the situation?
5. Agree on the best way to resolve the problem
Finally, you and the other party can find common ground. Both parties need to compromise and find consensus that can hopefully be win-win. Clearly express that you know your roles by using phrases such as “I am responsible for …”, “I will … until XX.” Offering a specific example that you would like to do differently in the future creates an open atmosphere in the workplace.
Turning the spotlight on yourself and admitting your mistakes or the things you could have done better might not be as easy as pointing out what others have done wrong. However, re-evaluating your mistakes and behavior during this step helps you set future expectations better and improve your performance. When this introspective habit is settled into your work culture, missteps in your performance will be an opportunity to improve in a conflict-free zone!
Bottomline: conflict resolution is about making compromises, forgiveness, empathy, and finding common ground. Remember, it is not about being right or winning, and the only goal is to create a win-win situation for everyone. It is essential to create a work environment where everyone is heard and respected. Better work culture leads to better performance!
By Eunkyung Cha