Workplace conflict is inevitable, and almost everyone who has spent time working with others has experienced this.
Whether there may be misunderstandings, power struggles, or rude and belligerent behavior, workplace conflict causes stress, drains energy, and impedes our ability to do our best work.
The good news is that we don’t have to sit back and allow ourselves to become victims; we can take a proactive approach and take charge of our workplace relationships.
Unless the other person is closed, committed to fighting, or holding a grudge, you have a good chance of making some progress in using these steps--either way, you will feel better after saying what you need to say and having done your best:
Before approaching your coworker, wait until your emotions have settled down, you can think and speak in a calm tone of voice, and you are in a situation that is relatively stress free.
When approaching your coworker, make your intentions clear at the start. Your colleague will naturally be defensive and may assume that you want to continue the conflict. Assure them from the start that you want to develop a better workplace relationship and that your intent is to look for ways to resolve your differences.
If you have regrets about the way you handled yourself in the situation, apologize sincerely and without reservation. Acknowledge any part that you feel you may have had in creating the conflict.
The person you are having problems with may expect that you will begin by sharing your grievances, so allowing them to speak first will lower their defensiveness. This will also be a clear indicator that you are seriously interested in a resolution.
Instead of formulating your response while the other person is speaking, imagine that you are going to have to write down everything they said. Focus on listening to their words and the emotions behind the words.
After they have finished, instead of coming up with a counter argument, repeat back in your own words what you heard them say. This will help them to know and feel you really listened to them.
When it is your turn to talk, stick to the events as they transpired and avoid making judgments about why the other person acted the way they did.
If they did not show up for a scheduled meeting, talk about how that impacted the other people in the meeting, but don’t accuse them of not caring about the other team members. Let them tell you why they didn’t show up for the meeting.
Ask them how you could do things differently in the future to prevent the same outcome from happening again. Search together for something you can agree on and commit to doing this from now on.
Hopefully your colleague will follow suite and commit to a more effective way of handling situations that arise in the future. If all goes well, this could lead to a closer and more effective working relationship down the road.
[Image: Flickr user Georgie Pauwels]