7 Tips For Managing Conflict at Work

7 Tips For Managing Conflict at Work


How many times over the years have you witnessed otherwise savvy professionals self-destruct because they wouldn’t engage out of a fear of conflict? Putting one’s head in the sand and hoping that conflict will pass you by is not the most effective methodology for problem solving. Conflict rarely resolves itself – in fact, conflict normally escalates if not dealt with proactively and effectively. It is not at all uncommon to see what might have been a non-event manifest itself into a monumental problem if not resolved early on.

How you approach, manage and resolve conflict can have an effect on your career trajectory, as almost all professions involve collaboration and teamwork. Berate or belittle your peers and you’ll encounter enemies at every corner. Instead, earn the respect of co-workers by dealing with conflict the right way. Here’s how to get on the right track.

1. Start the conversation the right way

If you want someone to answer you openly and honestly, rather than defensively, it is best to first give them some background information on why you are approaching them. This puts your intent first, so they don’t have to assume it.

2. Stay calm and listen

Remaining calm is essential, and while it can be easier said than done, it helps to look at the big picture rather than focus on just your input. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying, rather than commanding the conversation and letting your emotions take over.

3. Find common ground

It is important to find some commonalities, or create them, between you and the person on the other end. This will help to normalise the situation and change the tone of the conflict, if particularly undesirable.

4. State your case tactfully

The key here is to help people understand your perspective without getting defensive. Own what is yours, apologise for what you or your team did wrong and do it first. This will engage them to listen to what you have to say next.

5. Attack the problem, not the person

Your points will be heard more clearly if you can depersonalise your comments and point only at the issue. For example, rather than accusing someone of “always messing things up,” it is better to say, “we’ll have to take a closer look at why this keeps happening.”

6. Avoid the blame game

Assigning blame is only helpful in one instance – if you assign it to yourself. Generally speaking, figuring out whose fault something is does not do any good if the goal is to fix a problem. It is a diversion and sometimes a costly one because if a person feels blamed, they often check out of a conversation.

7. Pick your battles

It is also important to remember to pick your battles. Human nature makes us want to be right, even to the point of being defensive or arguing points that do not matter in the big picture. Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?

What do you think?

The ability to recognise conflict, understand its nature and bring a swift and just resolution will serve you well. The inability to do so may well be your downfall. In your experience, what skills are required to effectively resolve conflict? Comment your views below and join the conversation.

This article was written by Jelena Milutinovic on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Forbes; How Stuff Works and Meditate

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