Welcome to today’s lesson. In yesterday’s lesson, you discovered tools for becoming more influential and persuasive. These skills will serve you well when you are confronted with a situation that can escalate into conflict.
No matter how well you get along with others, there will be times when you disagree and find yourself on opposing sides with someone. How you handle this will either help or harm your career. When you understand where conflict comes from and know how to turn potential conflict into collaboration, you demonstrate the type of professionalism that leads to advancement.
“When you have a conflict, that means that there are truths that have to be addressed on each side of the conflict. And when you have a conflict, then it’s an educational process to try to resolve the conflict. And to resolve that, you have to get people on both sides of the conflict involved so that they can dialogue.” —Dolores Huerta
Sources of Conflict
Workplace conflict can occur in these areas:
1. Environment. Many employees now work in tightly-packed cubicles or open office spaces where privacy is rare and distractions abound. This type of situation is ripe for conflicts about noises, smells, boundaries, and more. This type of conflict is usually easily resolved with a conversation and a bit of negotiation.
2. Abilities. Conflicts can arise when people with different expertise work together. Sometimes more experienced people feel as if they are carrying those with less experience; those with less experience feel patronized. In these situations, exercising emotional intelligence can diffuse the situation.
3. Behavior. This is where most conflicts occur. Someone is doing something someone else dislikes. It comes from judging others and requiring them to be, think, and act as you do or how you want them to. Often, a shift in perspective or reframing the situation can defuse things. Behavior conflicts can quickly escalate into warfare, so avoid letting them simmer until they blow up.
Don’t React, Stop and Think
Does a real conflict exist or is it something you either can ignore or live with? Sometimes things just blow over and fade away without the need for action. If you choose to ignore the situation, it means that you are no longer going to let it bother you. You let it go and move on.
Everyone has expectations and preferences for work and working relationships. People can step on your toes or push your buttons without being aware they are doing so. Observe how they act with other employees. What you think is a conflict may be their natural way of working or communicating. Remember, your perception is your reality, and it may not be accurate.
If you decide that you need to address the situation, write out your thoughts and perceptions about it to gain distance and objectivity. If you believe that action is necessary, identify your options and the risks associated with each before choosing the most appropriate course.
Difficult conversations can go sidewise fast, and what would have been a difficult, but calm conversation initially, can become a shouting match that permanently damages the relationship.
• Plan how you want to describe the situation that necessitated the conversation.
• Focus on specific examples of behavior and how you felt when it happened.
• Rehearse what you want to say and how you want to say it until you are comfortable.
Meet privately with the other person, be prepared to explain your perceptions objectively, and avoid letting emotion take over. Focus on what you have observed, express your concerns, and be assertive. Your intention is to resolve the conflict in a way that allows you to continue to have a productive, satisfying relationship.
• Speak calmly and conversationally.
• Avoid blaming statements.
• Be open and receptive to what the other person says. It’s a dialogue, not a monologue.
• Listen with curiosity and be willing to understand their view of the situation.
• Apologize if you had a part in the problem.
• State clearly what you want to be different after the conversation and gain agreement from the other person.
Action Steps to Improve and Showcase Conflict Resolution
• Think of a past conflict that you had with someone that was positively resolved.
• List everything you did and said that helped you reach a satisfactory outcome.
• The next time you are faced with a potential conflict, step back, think, and then respond professionally.
See you tomorrow when we will look at time management, which relies on your ability to establish priorities and meet goals.
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