Dealing with conflict can be one of the most difficult challenges in our careers. When we perceive someone else’s behavior as annoying, disrespectful or harmful, it’s difficult to address the issue constructively.
We might make a joke out of the situation, hoping the other person will catch on and change their behavior. This tactic sound less confrontational than directly addressing conflict, however in my experience it has never lead to a solution. Other people either don’t realize we are upset, or are left wondering what, exactly, is upsetting us.
Another school of thought is to politely offer suggestions for change or improvement. Again, this method sounds non-confrontational and even helpful, but it rarely comes across as such to someone else. Many people do not appreciate being corrected and even “helpful” suggestions are likely result in defensiveness.
So what types of conflict resolution lead to resolution? The following techniques have worked for me in addressing and resolving conflict in the workplace:
Take ownership of your emotions. You may want to blame the effects of conflict on someone else’s behavior, but at the end of the day you are the one who has to live with how you are affected by the situation. Acknowledge your reaction and recognize that your reaction belongs to you. Other people affect our lives, and we ultimately decide how to manage our response.
Put the situation in perspective. Ask yourself, “how important is it?” Will you remember the current conflict six months from now? Recognizing that we all have faults, is the conflict serious enough to warrant a confrontation? What would happen if you didn’t address the situation? What is the best and worst case scenario if you did? Decide what, if anything, you have to loose or gain.
THINK Are your words and actions Thoughtful, Honest, Intelligent, Necessary and Kind? Take a moment to THINK about your participation in the conflict. When I THINK through a problem and can answer “yes” to all five qualifiers I know I’m treating myself and others with respect.
Ask for assistance. If you’ve determined you need to confront another person, try asking for their help instead of expressing your frustrations over their behavior. Most people are much more likely to help when asked and less likely to change when accused or demanded. You might say something like, “Thanks for meeting with me. It’s important to me that we have a positive working relationship and I hope you agree. I’ve been having a difficult time lately and think you may be able to help me. Would you be willing to do that?”
Brainstorm solutions. Instead of insisting on your ideal resolution, invite the other person to offer their ideas to solve the problem. Be open to someone else’s ideas and share your own. Together you have the opportunity to discover a solution that works for everyone and allows all parties to feel engaged and respected.
Express gratitude. Sincerely thank your co-worker for their time and consideration in addressing the conflict. Recognize that they are giving of themselves to you and you can give them the gift of gratitude.