Conflict is a natural part of business and is experienced in every workplace. The natural give and take between people is a healthy way to create "constructive discontent" and discover new approaches to challenges. Problems arise in the ways that we deal with these workplace conflicts. Some people tend to take a direct approach, often too direct. Others shy away from confrontations to avoid hurting feelings or from lack of confidence, which often leads to unresolved issues and lingering problems.
How do we find the middle ground, defusing conflict while making sure we consider all perspectives? Using the right approaches, we can deal with workplace conflicts in effective ways that resolve the issues while maintaining positive relationships. This starts with clearly understanding the issues and the personalities involved. When we understand different styles of conflict resolution, we are able to see things from the other person’s point of view.
Here are 7 tips for managing conflict in the workplace:
1. Have a positive attitude.
Our attitude is essential to the outcome. We have a much better chance of coming to an outcome involving mutual gains if we approach the conflict as an opportunity to learn and achieve a win-win outcome.
2. Meet on mutual ground.
Find a mutually agreeable and convenient physical space to meet that is comfortable to all involved. Agree on when to meet and how much time is available to devote to the process. Whenever possible, deal with conflict face-to-face.
3. Clearly define and agree on the issue.
Agree on a statement of the issue using simple and factual terms. If the situation is multi-faceted, search for ways to slice the large issue into smaller pieces and deal with one issue at a time.
4. Do your homework.
Take time to plan. We must not only know what is at stake for ourselves; we need to know the other side’s concerns and motivation. Take into consideration any history or past situations that might affect the resolution. Know the must-haves (non-negotiable items) and nice-to-haves (negotiable items). Determine the best resolution, a fair and reasonable compromise, and a minimally acceptable outcome.
5. Take an honest inventory of ourselves.
Be conscious of aspects of your personality that can help or hinder the process. We need to be conscious of aspects of our personalities that can help or hinder the process.
6. Look for shared interests.
Get on the same side by finding and establishing similarities. Since conflict tends to magnify perceived differences and minimize similarities, look for common goals, objectives, or even gripes that illustrate that you are in this together. Focus on the future, talk about what is to be done, and tackle the problem jointly.
7. Deal with facts, not emotions.
Address problems, not personalities. Avoid any tendency to attack other people or to pass judgment on ideas and opinions. Avoid focusing on the past or blaming others. Maintain a rational, goal-oriented frame of mind. This will depersonalize the conflict, separate the issues from the people involved, and avoid defensiveness.