5 Tips to Handling Conflict at Work

Conflict

What would you do if a colleague started an argument with you in a meeting?  How would you react to someone trying to sabotage your efforts on a major project?  Conflict in the workplace is unavoidable to a degree.  There will be differences in opinion, strategy, and planning efforts.  Due to advancements in technology, it’s easier than ever to avoid conflict.  If you see an email or social media post that makes you uncomfortable, you don’t have to reply back.  It’s common for people to just never respond about issues that they change their mind on, also known as “ghosting” other people.

As a life science professional, your reputation is very important.  You never know when you’ll need to list a reference for a future opportunity, so having a positive reputation is a must.  Individuals who are thought of as leaders or influencers usually have the most access to jobs, promotions, speaking opportunities, and other professional events. Unfortunately, conflict management is a skill that most people are never taught.  Here are five tips for handling conflict at work!       

Avoid irrelevant arguments

With so much going on during the normal workday, there are countless circumstances that can lead to minor disagreements.  It’s in your best interest to avoid irrelevant arguments.  These are usually personal differences that in the scheme of things, don’t really have an effect on your productivity or performance.  Some employees feel the need to try to change others and make them plan or take action in the exact same ways that they do.  Don’t waste your time or energy on issues that don’t matter in the big picture.  Adhering to this will keep you out of the majority of conflict in the workplace.

Keep the organization’s best interest in mind

When employees are focused on their own ego or personal agenda, conflict with others can ensue.  How many times have you had other colleagues try to get you to do their job duties or responsibilities?  Have you ever seen a coworker prioritize what is easiest or best for them over the organization?  These are the types of actions that can cause conflict and disagreement.  Keeping the organization’s best interest in mind usually helps everyone stay on track.  You can consider mentioning the organization’s overall goals the next time someone comes to you with self-serving requests.  

Address issues with coworkers directly 

If you have an issue with someone, address your concerns with them directly.  Don’t talk about a problem with other people before discussing it with the primary coworker involved.  This helps you avoid gossip and drama in the workplace.  Even if you are technically right in a situation or have the most productive approach, your position can be compromised if it seems like you are talking about people behind their back.  Conversing to someone one-on-one might seem intimidating or uncomfortable.  However, it is a vital way to reduce conflict that might ensue when others get involved.

Stay calm and objective during disagreements

Even if you actively try to limit disagreements, conflict is natural and will still occur.  When a difference of opinion arises with a coworker, remain calm and objective.  This can be difficult if the other person is very emotional, upset, or rude.  Use your normal tone and speaking volume.  Many conflicts can be de-escalated when one person stays calm and isn’t yelling, interrupting, and talking over the other person.  Don’t fall into the trap of trying to overcompensate or prove why you are right to a colleague.  Simply state your opinion or response and let things go.  Agreeing to disagree on a topic can help prevent future conflict.   

Focus on the facts

Think about what is at the root of your conflict.  Are you and your coworker working towards the same goal?  Many disagreements are the result of people prioritizing different things and trying to achieve different goals.  Once you have clarity around the primary objective with your colleague, focus on the facts of the situation.  Conflict is usually the result of someone’s feelings being hurt in some way and/or a high level of subjective reasoning.  Having a conversation on the actuality of a situation can be helpful.  In the event this discussion doesn’t go well with your coworker, consider having a calm conversation with your manager on the facts and circumstances.

Have you been involved in a lot of conflict in your organization?  There are many reasons why disagreements can originate.  You can reduce the level of conflict you’re involved in by avoiding irrelevant arguments and keeping the organization’s best interest in mind.  Speaking with coworkers directly about any differences of opinion is another way to prevent situations from spiraling out of control.  Remaining calm and objective also assist in deescalating highly charged discussions.  Finally, focusing on the facts lets others know that you aren’t biased or trying to hurt anyone’s feelings.  What is one thing you can do to be better equipped to handle conflict at work?

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. (https://www.fly-highcoaching.com) She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

 

 

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