Workplaces are naturally stressful environments, and personal conflicts between co-workers can be both a cause and product of this stress. Yet allowing them to build and intensify will only further impair the work environment, according to Susan Lankton-Rivas, a practice leader at human resources consulting firm Insight Performance Inc.
“By understanding the issue and taking positive action, you can help solve the problem and make your office a place where you really want to be,” she writes.
Whether your conflict is with staff, peers, or management, here are Lankton-Rivas’s eight tips for effectively handling conflict.
Approach conflict with an open mind
Different people have different perceptions, and solving workplace conflicts requires finding a common ground, not waiting until one person caves to the other. “Try to understand the other person’s point of view and how he or she arrived at it,” advises Lankton-Rivas. Next
Consider what might have caused the conflict
Take an objective look at yourself and determine what you did or said to contribute to the situation. Try to place yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider how the situation could be handled differently in the future, Lankton-Rivas advises. Next
Be respectful of differences
Workplaces are diverse places, today more than ever, and what is acceptable to one person may be offensive to another. If your office has a diversity program, consider attending it, and if it doesn’t, be the catalyst who brings one to your workplace, suggests Lankton-Rivas. Next
Try to cut the conflict off in its early stages
“Ask your co-worker if you did anything to upset him or her,” writes Lankton-Rivas.
“Communicate your willingness to talk about this and see if together you can solve the issue.” Next
Before jumping to conclusions, sit down with the person with whom you’re in conflict and try to understand the issue fully. During the conversation, make sure you acknowledge his or her feelings and paraphrase their opinion back to them to enhance your comprehension, Lankton-Rivas suggests. Next
Be mindful of your language
It is important to avoid assigning blame to the person you’re speaking with, and taking note of the words you use will help you avoid falling into this trap. Try to use “I” statements that explain how you feel, and give examples of why you feel that way, according to Lankton-Rivas. Next
Ask for help
If the conflict continues to build, recruit someone in the workplace whom you respect to act as a mediator, advises Lankton-Rivas. This could be your manager, a human resources professional, or a manager from a different department. Next
Be sure the problem is resolved
The problem isn’t properly resolved until both parties in the argument feel better about the situation. Set guidelines for how to handle a similar situation in the future. “You might say something like, ‘Let’s commit that you will let me know right away if I do something that upsets you, and when you bring it to my attention, we will stop what we are doing to address it,’ “ Lankton-Rivas writes. Back to the beginning
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