Most people feel that they get along with others. Yet most of us encounter some form of conflict on a daily basis. It can get complicated when neither person can agree on what has caused the conflict. And when the conflict arises in the workplace, resolving the issues can be a test of patience.
Conflict is about how we relate to others as well as ourselves and arises when the meanings we put on interactions are at odds with our expectations. When we feel that something challenges or undermines our values, needs or our sense of identity, we react. One of the difficulties in resolving conflict is that we each have a version of what happened. We also react differently to certain situations. A situation that may trigger conflict for some people may not for a different set of people. Differing perceptions explains why each person involved is absolutely certain that their version of events is right.
Conflict, especially at work, can result in stress for the people involved and those around them. Loss of sleep, a “bad feel” in the office or hurt feelings, can impact on productivity and morale. When conflict is not resolved quickly, it can cost a business time and money to replace employees, go through lengthy resolution processes and even potential legal action.
If you find yourself in conflict, you can help manage the situation by:
- Taking time out: In the heat of the moment, the sense of injustice can be overwhelming. When the feelings of conflict begin to arise or hit fever pitch, step back or physically remove yourself from the situation. Once words have been said or emails sent, they cannot be taken back. Take your time and leave enough space between the trigger and your response. This way, you can adopt a more measured approach to resolve the conflict. Taking time to find out what is going on for you is important in understanding how to identify and deal with conflicts in the future.
- Acknowledge the impact: We all like to be acknowledged. When our feelings are dismissed or suppressed, it can worsen the impact of the conflict. Impacts may be experienced emotionally, physically or psychologically. Ignoring the elephant in the room will not make the issue go away or any easier to deal with. In fact, a build up of feelings and impacts can permeate through other areas of your work and personal life. Acknowledge your own feelings and those of the other person.
- Talk it out: Once enough time has passed talk to someone about what happened. If appropriate, discuss with the person involved. Stick to the facts, ask questions and acknowledge their feelings and point of view. Effective questions can help you better understand yourself and your reactions. It is important that each person’s perspective is taken into account so if the opportunity arises, ask the other person about their point of view. Objectively looking at what has occurred, can help determine what the trigger point was in that specific situation. Generally, this will reveal the values, needs or sense of identity involved. Alternatively, a trained professional, such as a coach or mediator, can guide you through a conflict resolution process.
When there is conflict in any area of life or work, it impacts the people involved and those around them. Managing conflict can be a tricky situation. However, if the people involved are willing and able to commit to resolving the conflict, this is a first step to better relationships.
In many situations, it takes more than two to tango and the support of colleagues or professionals, can make a huge difference in keeping the workplace conflict free.