Conflict situations in the workplace can be incredibly disruptive. They not only leave those involved in the dispute feeling unsettled but also everyone else too. Eventually, conflict that isn’t well handled may lead to a situation where one or other of the people involved is forced to leave, whether that’s moving to another department or quitting the business altogether. However, there are ways to handle conflict at work so that it doesn’t escalate to become uncomfortable.
Start by talking
Conflicts are often escalated when communication breaks down. Rumours, misinterpretation of silence or getting the wrong idea can all contribute to making a situation worse. So, the first step in handling conflict at work is to find a convenient time when you can sit down with the other person and have a conversation.
Make sure you listen
It can be difficult not to react to someone else, especially if what they are saying feels unfair or wrong. However, it’s very important to listen to what is being said, to let the other person finish without interrupting and to make sure you understand what their issue really is. Ask questions if you’re not clear and try to stay calm even if you feel under attack.
And when it’s your turn…
It’s often much more helpful to focus on specific instances rather than talking generally about behaviour. Try to steer clear of being too personal – for example, framing an issue as “when this happens” as opposed to “when you do this” can be less inflammatory.
Find some common ground
When you have both had the opportunity to air your issues it can be useful for someone to summarise what those are. What are the main problems when it comes to disagreement and are there any areas where you both agree? If nothing else it’s important to be able to get consensus on what the main conflict points are between you. From there you can prioritise which are the most important and particularly crucial to try and resolve.
Make a plan
Identify the key conflict that is causing the biggest problems and then create a plan to tackle that issue. You might want to agree steps that both can take to help to try and resolve the problem and also to schedule a date in the future to meet again to discuss progress. It’s important to try and focus on the future and how change can be facilitated, rather than on the past.
Follow through on what you’ve achieved so far
Once you have a plan in place it’s important to show resolve and stick to it, and for both parties to be proactive and committed to the process. When you start to see positive change, compliment and congratulate each other and look for those moments when it feels good to highlight the progress that has been made.
Dealing with conflict in a professional environment can feel intimidating at first. However, all that’s really required is a practical approach as well as a willingness to evolve.
Our Managing Conflict course will benefit individuals, teams and the organisation by providing delegates with the understanding and ability to manage conflict in the workplace, alternatively our Managing Difficult Staffing Situations helps delegates understand the importance of managing poor performance and helps give delegates the confidence to manage day-to-day poor performance and behavioural problems within their team.