1 Febbraio 2023

Managing Conflict in the work environment

di Tom Roper
Scarica in PDF

Understanding how to manage and deal with conflict is an important professional skill. Conflict in the workplace can have a strong effect on the well-being and motivation of staff and cause unnecessary distractions and stress. Managers or staff with conflict management skills are able to resolve disagreements quickly and efficiently, therefore enabling effective teamwork and maximising the team’s productivity. Successfully managing conflict can also aid in creating a learning environment where individuals can help others, develop their talents and act and think creatively. Conflict management can be challenging, but those who are able to do it well are highly valued by both their companies and colleagues .

Fight or flight

When conflict appears, we often observe nature’s fight-or-flight response – either by “attacking” the enemy or running away. The ‘fight’ reaction is visible when people begin preparing themselves for an argument. But by getting aggressive, they may not only cause serious damage to their working and other relationships but are also missing out on the opportunity for growth through positive or constructive feedback.

On the other hand, the ‘flight’ response involves ignoring the issue altogether. People can bottle up and suppress their feelings and emotions, hiding disagreements and pretending that everything is OK when it is very clearly not. However, the conflict remains unresolved and the problem often gets worse.

So exactly how can we get over the obstacle of our immediate reactions and be able to use conflict as a source of trust-building and development? Here are eight tips to help us manage conflict successfully.

  1. Consider the best place and time for the conversation.

Even though it is of vital importance to discuss the issue, talking about it in the wrong situation or with the wrong audience can lead to embarrassment and an unreceptive listener. Where possible, organise an appointment where all parties can be comfortable and talk about the issue with the relevant people.

  1. Don’t assume the worst.

When you begin a conversation and believe that the other party doesn’t like you or you expect to be attacked, you will nearly always assume the position of defending yourself and feel negative emotions of anger or hurt.

Try to remember that you’re doing this process because everyone wants to resolve the issue and generate a good feeling and a positive environment. Do this by starting and assuming that their intentions are positive and that everything that is said will be for the benefit of the team. This makes room for an open conversation that can try to improve the situation rather than make it worse.

  1. Ensure a two-way conversation.

A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. It is the chance for both parties to understand each other and not for one side to list all the things they are unhappy or angry about without letting the other person react. A genuine conversation allows all parties to share their perspectives and collaborate to find a satisfactory way forward. When you realise you are in a monologue, stop and ask some questions.

  1. Open your ears and consider change.

The majority of us like to believe we are good listeners, however often we are just waiting for our opportunity to speak. Try to put your own ideas and thoughts to one side for a moment and genuinely listen to what the other person is saying. It is only possible to grow and develop when you allow others’ words to change you.

  1. Don’t generalise.

It’s very easy to generalise and make widespread accusations, statements such as “You always”… or “You never”… have this effect. However, this is often met with an understandably defensive response. Alternatively, try to be specific about what the issue is, give understandable examples, and be clear about the impact of the problem. Try to be as objective as you can and always avoid personal attacks.

  1. Stay in the present.

It is a common occurrence for some people, to try to remind their partner or colleague of less relevant past events in order to gain an advantage over their conversation partner. However, this makes people feel defensive and distracts everyone from the focal point of the conversation. Try to concentrate on the main issue at hand now and how to improve things.

  1. Take responsibility for what you can.

Nobody says we are perfect and we never make mistakes. Consider your own part to play in the creation of the problem and take responsibility for it. This ownership not only shows your desire to collaborate as a team but also demonstrates that you are not solely looking for an opportunity to blame the other party.

  1. Look to the future.

Most conversations regarding conflict often focus on what shouldn’t have been and what could have been done. Ideally, concentrate on the future. What steps can you take to resolve this problem? How can you avoid it happening again?

Through careful management, conflicts can help us make the most of our differences, find a way of collaborating successfully and create a better working environment.