Almost all workplaces involve contact with people with whom we might not choose to associate under other circumstances. That’s life, and learning to get on with those we don’t like or don’t share our values is part of being a grown-up. It’s also true that most conflicts can be resolved – even the very worse kind. It won’t happen overnight but with good will on both sides it will happen.
Chief Happiness Officer blogger, Alexander Kjerulf (http://positivesharing.com/2006/07/5-essential-steps-to-resolve-a-conflict-at-work/) distils work conflict solutions into five essential points.
Understand that conflict is inevitable and that there is no such thing as “winning”: Kjerulf says“[g]etting the outcome you want regardless of what the other person wants can be gratifying, sure, but the problem is that the underlying issue has not been solved.”
The price of letting unresolved conflicts continue is high, resulting in hostility, miscommunication, inefficiency, stress and low productivity. All this will make you and your co-workers very unhappy so tackle the problem early.
If someone’s actions or words hurt you, ask them (nicely, of course) why they did what they did or said what they said. There might be a logical or at least satisfactory explanation. Don’t assume people do things just to upset you.
For long-running conflicts, Kjerulf suggests using “giraffe language”:
When conflicts become so entrenched and cannot be solved, a third, objective voice can help. This could be a trusted co-worker, manager, business coach or professional mediator.
When the source of conflict at work is your manager, the situation is trickier to resolve. A good boss will take on constructive criticism, but as we know not all bosses are good. Kjerulf suggests the following strategies for dealing with a horrible boss.
Unless proven otherwise, assume your manager does not intend to make you unhappy. He or she might lack emotional intelligence and appreciate advice on how to do better.
There are three types of bad boss. Classifying him or her will provide you with the best strategy:
Don’t be tempted to wait and hope the relationship will improve with time or your boss will leave. Early action is best.
Arrange a face to face meeting where you won’t be interrupted, and remain calm and professional. Explain how your manager’s behaviour affects you and your work, suggest ways to do things better, and follow up at a later date to review the situation together.
You don’t have to be a boss yourself to do this. Most managers will appreciate positive feedback from staff when they get it right.
Dealing with Conflict
My personal tips for surviving workplace conflict until it is resolved: