How do we manage conflicts at the workplace?
Is there any way we could not run into conflict at all?
No there isn’t. Because we are all only humans.
Conflict is unavoidable. And it happens for many reasons, from miscommunication to disagreements, from pure ego problems to plain stubbornness.
People deal with conflicts in many different ways. And it isn’t surprising to hear that the vast majority of us deal with it by completely avoiding or ignoring it. But people fail to realise that ignoring the conflict does not mean that they have escaped it. They have simply filed it away in their minds, hoping the situation and disagreement will go away with time.
Understandably, conflict seems toxic to have in an organisation. Creating tension between members, slowly dividing the team up into ‘mini-teams’, creating barriers to communication… The list really goes on.
But conflict could be necessary.
When you don’t manage conflicts, they tend to worsen over time. The unresolved conflict will simmer in their minds, festering into unproductivity, resentment and ultimately disengagement at work.
With conflict, positive change can happen. And with positive change, progress is certain.
Here are 3 uncommon ways we could use to manage conflict:
1. Confronting the Conflict… with Positivity
Parking the conflict in the corner of your mind could ultimately lead to your own disengagement at work. It is considerably more efficient to confront the conflict. And confronting does not necessarily mean to argue or act in an aggressive way. Confront the conflict by firstly facing it. Then talk about it. Discuss it out loud… using positive language.
Constructive conversations are very important to a team or a company to better understand the problem that is happening. It is crucial for every member involved to voice their perspective to ensure that everybody gets their point heard. And it is important for members to be positive in their language when doing so.
Talk about it as courageously as you can, and as vulnerable as you are.
But keep in mind that being brave and being brutal are two different things altogether. Avoid being negative.
Talking in a negative manner such as using sarcasm, ‘hidden messages’ or just by screaming your head off, other members tend to shut down or worse, retaliate.
Using positive language increases the likelihood of being heard. People will be more open to listen to what you have to say, and more willing to share what they have to share. The entire issue can be resolved more quickly and easily.
Don’t be team “Let the unhappiness stew until the issue goes away”. Be brave to talk about the issue. Be courageously vulnerable to share your perspective on the matter, and be truthful and honest about what’s on your mind.
2. Learning Each Other’s Quirks and Tick-Offs from the Conflicts
Sometimes conflict happens when someone said something seemingly innocent, and yet it triggered someone else off.
“Why so sensitive?!” “I was only making a factual point.” “It wasn’t even a personal attack!”
We all have our quirks. And we all have something that makes us tick.
Sometimes we are unaware about how the things we say may come across to others. A question as simple and innocent as “Why are you eating that today?” could send a thousand different messages to the receiver.
When a conflict is eventually discussed and ironed out, one thing that will definitely come out of it is that we learn about each other’s quirks and tick-offs.
We learn what we can and cannot say to a certain someone. We learn where they are coming from and the reason for their reactions. They learn why we get upset when they say some things. They learn how to work around that to effectively handle the issue on hand.
By understanding how we ourselves, and how each other think, feel and behave, we get a better sense of why we are who we are. We take things less personally as we understand where each other is coming from. We understand why our differences exist and we figure out how to work with each other’s quirks and tick-offs.
We slowly learn how unpleasant situations arise, and we manage to not let it happen in the future.
When conflicts happen, we don’t just learn about the issue on hand.
We also understand each other a little better each time, and we learn how to handle conflicts better in the future.
3. Manage Conflicts By Leveraging On Differences
Conflicts often come about due to differences.
Be it differences in beliefs or differences in methodologies, conflicts arise when there is disagreement in the way we think or do things.
Differences is bound to exist no matter where we go. No matter how hard we try, we will never succeed in making everybody around us think exactly like us. But we shouldn’t let differences get in the way of our productivity. We tend to see differences as obstacles and let it hinder in our progress at work. Instead, we should see differences as opportunities for improvements.
Often, we put our strengths above other people’s strengths, and deem their strengths as weaknesses. But in fact, differences allow each of our different strength to shine in times of conflict.
Different perspectives allow us to address more areas of one situation. Differences open our eyes to the many different perspectives of the very same situation. We end up having more solutions, more ideas, more creativity.
Leveraging on each other’s differences could potentially help us to more efficiently and effectively solve not just conflicts, but even problems, obstacles or quite simply, tasks. Instead of letting our differences hinder in our way of solving conflicts, we should leverage on differences to solve conflicts instead.
Don’t be afraid to manage conflicts in the workplace. Let conflicts happen when they do. Let conflicts play itself out, and don’t avoid or hide from it. Talk it out with your team to really know the problem. Understand each other a little better after each conflict.
Manage conflicts better through communication.
If you find this article to be helpful to manage conflicts at the workplace, you might also like our FREE Engaging teams guide down below.
Aly is StrengthsAsia’s marketing and communications guru and lead editor. She's over the top inquisitive and everyone in the company knows her as “The Googler” as she practically googles everything. Honestly, we all worry for her… She is also the Principal Trainer for our one of a kind ice cream team building workshops in Asia.