Conflict is inevitable If two or more people are interacting with each other. Differences in knowledge, experience, motivation, or values can cause a disagreement. We manage conflict every day in both personal and professional settings. Some conflicts are minor and easy to resolve while others are more complicated and challenging. You may quickly decide what pizza to share with a colleague at lunch even though you initially want different toppings. Choosing which direction to move with a problematic client may not be as easy. Despite being a little more uncomfortable, addressing challenging situations is crucial. Here are some tips for resolving conflict authentically in the workplace.
Know that conflict is not bad. US culture gives conflict a bad name. For something that happens so frequently, we sure are afraid of it. Conflict is not inherently evil. It is a natural part of relationships and, when navigated well, can strengthen bonds. Conflict can be uncomfortable when it feels personal. Uncomfortable does not equal “bad.” Feelings of discomfort can mean that you need to figure out how the conflict is impacting you and be mindful of your feelings and reactions as you proceed with addressing it.
Address the conflict directly. Being direct when engaging in conflict with others is extremely challenging for some, but very important. Beating around the bush can cause more confusion, more conflict, or perpetuate the offending situation. Being assertive about conflict doesn’t mean aggressive. Direct communication should still follow the same rules that apply to all workplace conversations. Feedback should always be given respectfully with the intention of resolving the conflict.
Know that you can’t change the behavior of others, only your own. Sometimes, you may feel that your colleague is the catalyst for the issue and should take most of the responsibility. Even when that’s the case, it is impossible for you to change someone else’s behavior. You can provide feedback and suggest changes, but at the end of the day, it’s their choice to use your advice. The only action you can change is your own. It may be required for you to change your reaction to behavior to navigate issues.
Be solution focused. Sometimes, when conflict hits a personal trigger, we might just want the person to understand how they made us feel, and sometimes, make them feel bad too. Making others feel bad has never helped successfully address any conflict, and most of the time, it only makes us feel better for a moment, if at all. Focusing on resolving the issue is the most beneficial way for all parties to move on productively. Come to the conversation with questions and suggestions that are designed to solve the problem or move towards finding a resolution. Conflicts may not be addressed in a short amount of time, but discuss next steps towards improving the situation is the best course forward.
Other articles regarding conflict: How your Team can Benefit from Conflict