Managing Conflict 101: Best Practices For Resolving Workplace Conflicts

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As the saying goes, you can’t pick your neighbors. The same is true for co-workers (unless you’re the one conducting interviews!). Only in this case, you have to work together daily, and that won’t happen without some conflict. In fact, you’d be surprised how many workplace disagreements lead to the need for a defense attorney.

Conflict management is probably most critical in the workplace. That’s because the stakes are high. There are entire seminars on the topic. Human Resources organizations offer support solely focused on the legal issues conflict brings. Smaller arguments can lead to hours of mediation between HR and your manager. You can imagine the financial burden happening here. One statistic found that the typical manager spends 25-40% of his or her time dealing with workplace conflicts. That’s one to two days of every work week.

“It is important to establish professional boundaries, be able to distinguish the difference between assertive and aggressive behaviors, and most importantly remember professional communication and the art of active listening,” advises life coach Nick Dillon.

Personal development expert, Marsha Petrie Sue adds, ”A positive attitude may not solve all your problems. But it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”

Because conflict can be mediated and managed, we asked a professional studying the subject matter –Karim Ouda – to share his thoughts on the topic. Here’s what he had to say:

Q:  WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF COMMON WORKPLACE CONFLICTS? 

A typical example of a workplace conflict may occur during a meeting where all team members must choose between different alternatives (designs, process, marketing plans) regarding a new product or project. Finding consensus is difficult. People have different backgrounds and come from different cultures. I believe that, because of those differences, conflict is inevitable.

There are many reasons for conflicts such as incompetent leadership, lack of team spirit and huge differences in experience among team members. But I think the main reason for conflict is lack of appropriate communication skills and ego.

Q:  WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF WORKPLACE CONFLICT? 

If not handled immediately, conflict leads to intra-team tension, lack of cooperation on agreed-upon decisions, turnover, bad team performance, and difficulty making future decisions.

Q:  WHAT IS YOUR TOP ADVICE FOR HELPING COWORKERS GET ALONG?  

  1. Always put yourself in the other person’s place. Ask yourself why they might be thinking in a different way.
  2. Go back to the basics of the conflict. Try to agree on a common problem. Remember that sometimes everyone see the problem in a different way.
  3. Ask a trusted third-party person to help in resolving the conflict.
  4. Take time-outs, don’t push to solve the conflict in one meeting.
  5. Attack the problem, not the person.
  6. Make sure you are debating and defending a better alternative – not a self-preference or to appease a desire to win the conflict.
  7. As a team, learn from each resolved conflict.

 

Which of these tips have worked for you in a conflict situation on the job? What types of problems have you had to overcome while working with a fellow employee?


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