We spend an average of 40 hours a week with our colleagues at work. With so much face-to-face interaction, it’s completely normal to experience moments of tension and conflict in the workplace.
Workplace issues can arise in many forms, most commonly in the form of disagreements with peers over projects or group collaborations. Conflict doesn’t need to be feared or seen as the end of the world. If approached with a positive attitude and seen as simply an obstacle to overcome, moments of conflict are opportunities to learn and grow. Knowing how to manage moments of conflict properly is a vital workplace skill. Below are some tips to help us avoid escalating tension and consequent unproductivity, and will allow us to all enjoy our working environments as much as possible.
Identify concerns promptly
If we feel a situation has arisen or find ourselves in the middle of one, it’s important for us to identify the cause or source of the conflict quickly, and formulate how we feel about it. Being able to take time to think about our perspective of a situation helps to clear our minds to find logical solutions.
Step into their shoes
Our parents always advised us to step into the shoes of another, and there are few situations more useful than in the workplace! Take a moment out of the office (perhaps a walk around the block) and think about each person in the scenario and how they each might be feeling. This can help us to think more rationally about situations and formulate what an ideal solution would be.
Be an assertive speaker and an active listener
A healthy workplace is built on respect between colleagues. Face-to-face mediation is a good approach for each party to express their points, and it’s important that each view is expressed without interruption and with the full attention of everyone else involved. Try booking a meeting room or suggesting a coffee meeting outside the office, with a no-phone-use policy, so that everyone is assured of equal attention and respect to express their sides of a situation. Speaking in a calm, friendly yet assertive manner is most appropriate, otherwise we risk making compromise and cooperation far more challenging than it needs to be.
Oldest rule in the book – sometimes the best solution is a combination of two or more ideas! Workplaces are full of diverse people, so the likelihood of someone getting their way every time is slim, the key is to stay flexible and willing to put forward solutions that combine the key points of everyone involved to find a solution that (hopefully) satisfies everyone.
Some Final Thoughts
Resolving conflict can be a great opportunity to learn new skills and help foster a happier environment. If conflict can be resolved successfully, the parties involved can become more trusting of each other and more productive. Of course, there are times when conflict can become more serious and engaging a mediator might be the best way forward. In most cases however, an open mind and good communication skills will go a long way to achieving positive outcomes for everyone.
Source: This is an edited extract from ‘Resolving workplace conflict’, available from AFA Care and Benestar at https://benestar.com/. For more information about accessing AFA Care resources available at Benestar please visit https://www.afa.asn.au/afa-care