Dealing With Conflict In The Workplace

Although many people might prefer an article about avoiding conflict in the workplace, that idea is far from realistic. If we trying to avoid conflict than one of two things is happening: either employees are not acting as their authentic selves, or there is no diversity (which opens many other challenges). At Affiance Coaching, conflict implies opportunity to learn to work together to move towards a solution.
People make decisions and react out of their natural instincts, and which can be drastically different from one another. These differences can, and should, be celebrated. Where one person’s strength is in the details, their teammate may operate best within a broad perspective. Every team needs differing talents in order to do well-rounded work. But this, our instinctive differences, can be the main source of conflict in the workplace. Whether you do or do not have conflict isn’t the challenge, it’s how you handle the conflict that is key.

Here are a few common areas of conflict, and how to go about dealing with them:

Define Your Workplace Atmosphere: Most likely, your employees haven’t always worked for you. Employees join your company with experience from all sorts of office cultures, both healthy and unhealthy. Make it clear to your teams what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior. Someone coming from an unhealthy office culture may be completely unaware that how they react to a situation is unacceptable behavior in your office. Giving them the courtesy of making your expectations clear gives them the chance to change not only their behavior, but their mindset.

Recognize It, Don’t Ignore: One of the most difficult components of conflict is recognizing it and bringing it into the daylight. Instead of sweeping that passive comment under the rug, recognize it and get to the root of it. If someone is clearly hurt by a situation, talk about it. Unfortunately, conflict does not resolve itself and will continue to decay the atmosphere of your workplace if it isn’t dealt with. Let your workplace be a safe place for people to be honest, so that you can get to the root of problems before they implode.

Allowing Everyone To Learn: Conflict can allow for learning opportunities. If conflict is dealt with poorly, you now have the chance to learn how to have healthy conflict in the future. And if conflict is dealt with well, your whole office now has the chance not only to learn about how they as individuals can approach conflict, but about how they can better understand one another.

Honestly, I’m excited for you. Many people skip these lessons altogether. Confronting conflict head will make your workplace that much more efficient, and you team that much more powerful.

Erin Werde

4 Comments on “Dealing With Conflict In The Workplace”

  1. What if the conflict is purely the difference in personalities? The conflict is clearly just the people that work next to each other their whole 8 hour shift everyday have two completely different needs for simple things like conversation or listening to music. It make for a very difficult arena to have everyone happy.

    1. Hi Suzanne:

      Thanks for the question! Is there any way to encourage compromise in this situation? IE: person who wants to listen to music can use headphones? Or moving the physical layout for those who want more conversation vs. those who prefer to work in quiet? While everyone may need to give a little bit, honest conversation around these differences can yield great results.

      Erin

  2. Hi Erin,

    Thanks for the information.

    Any suggestions on dealing with conflict when one party refuses to communicate?

    1. Hi Cheree:

      Thank you for the insightful question! Naturally my Fact Finder would need a little bit more info on the situation. It is very challenging to hold a position in today’s workforce and refuse to communicate. Perhaps it is about the method of communication (in-person vs. writing?). Perhaps it is about timing? Perhaps it is a clash in values?

      My other thought is to bring questions around conflict into the hiring process. This provides a solid baseline before employees are offered a position with your organization. Feel free to reply with any additional detail/specifics.

      Erin

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