Conflict in the workplace
The workplace is one area of our lives where it seems we are unable to avoid conflict. There is conflict at many levels. There is the competing roles and goals that might place you at odds with colleagues who do not see your ideas as having merit. There is conflict when it comes to negotiation. There can be conflict for much simpler things like office layout or rotas.
It is important to realise that conflict is inevitable in the workplace. With different people having conflicting priorities, disagreements are bound to happen. There are also the natural social interactions at play where we will tend to form alliances with some, while keeping our distance from others.
The challenge is how you choose to deal with conflict. Choosing to ignore conflict and to continue with your head in the sand like an ostrich, is likely to allow the conflict to fester and grow. Although like many you may feel a tightening knot of anxiety and an overwhelming desire to run, in reality the best course of action is usually to tackle conflict quickly.
Understanding the mechanics of conflict can make the process easier and can help with your anxiety and to get you to a resolution. At the core of conflict is communication and emotion. When in conflict we can get very poor at communication with a desire to put over our point of view. There is a determination to win everyone over and not be prepared to concede any point; for fear that it weakens the whole position.
Yet knowing that this exists in those in conflict allows us to address this and to try to break through and reach a solution. First emotion, it’s worth noticing that emotions and egos are ted up in the opinions that cause conflict. So it’s best to address the issues when people are calm. It’s also worth noticing that things like text and email are not good ways of communicating emotions. They are probably not a good way of trying to sort out a conflict. Talk to the person, ideally away from their desk. Try to acknowledge the parts that you can agree on and be prepared to recognise anything you may have done. For example, “I’ve notice we always seem to be very critical of each other’s ideas. I know that sometimes I perhaps don’t give you credit for the thought you put into the suggestions you make and I wanted to talk to you to see if we could work together to make a difference to our working relationship.”
Building on communication is the other important part. Listening to their point of view and taking it on board, acknowledge where there are points that you agree on. Do not interrupt but let them finish before you respond. The key really is to understand that you are not trying to make a friend of this person, but rather find a way of working with them so try to focus on facts or processes and stay away from personalities or behaviours. Ultimately having a working relationship will benefit both of you and will reduce your stress in the workplace.
If it is becoming too much you may find it useful to see if your company offers mediation or if you can talk to your manager or arrange counselling to help you deal with the conflict. But ultimately conflict is not to be ignored but should be tackled for your sake.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.