Work it Out: Handling Conflict at Work

Work it Out: Handling Conflict at Work

Workplace conflict is as inevitable a part of the office day-to-day as deadlines and budgets. In a perfect world, everybody would get along famously including office co-workers. Alas, offices are full of people, and people come with a range of personalities, and not all interact harmoniously. Prevent conflict from running projects and productivity off the rails by properly managing discord and disagreement.

To begin, recognize that attitude is everything: bring a positive outlook to the task of getting along with difficult personalities or navigating diverging opinions. Getting along well with others is not just a skill for the nursery-school set. The ability to work well with colleagues, clients and bosses is a must for professional growth, no matter the differences in temperament and work styles.

Take a Deep Breath: Differences in personality or opinions are real and are valid. Try to understand that quote-unquote difficult colleagues may simply have a different perspective and are not deliberately trying to annoy or harass you. Likewise, differences in opinion or work style do not mean that someone is in the wrong. By simply aknowledging the reality of “different strokes, for different folks” you may find some of your animosity dissipates.

Act Fast: Don’t let conflicts simmer along until they come to a full boil. Be sure to address conflict head on when it first arises. It’s always easier to address a smaller problem than a big one so be sure to act quickly before you have a full scale conflagration on your hands.

Clear the Air: The key to resolving conflict is communication, communication, communication. No one is a mind reader; take time to calmly and neutrally explain your perspective to your co-workers. Colleagues may be unaware that their behavior has upset or bothered you and may be receptive to your concerns.

Listen Carefully: There are two-sides to every story. Be a good listener and you’ll learn how to resolve conflicts more readily.

Agree to Disagree: Sometimes people are truly out of sync. You can agree to disagree with a person’s work style or opinion. Just be sure to treat your co-worker professionally and politely and make clear that you expect the same courtesy.

Take it Up with Higher Ups: If a co-worker is deliberately sabotaging you, shirking work or committing a host of other office sins, schedule time to discuss the situation with your boss. Again, be sure to remain professional and objective. Your boss will be more receptive to your concerns if you don’t come off as a complainer or an emotional wreck.

Difficult Bosses: Bosses are people too and sometimes you wind up working for a difficult personality. Again, clear communication is essential; try to dispassionately and professionally communicate your concerns and work towards getting your relationship on a better footing. If your boss continues to be a source of conflict, consider consulting with your HR department for guidance or in a worst case scenario, explore other job options within the organization or elsewhere.

Conflict Resolved: A conflict is resolved when both parties agree the issue has been put to bed. Don’t assume that your communication or efforts towards resolution have worked. Explicitly ask to be sure that the air has been cleared and the issue resolved. True resolution means both parties are satisfied with the outcome.