9 Ways to Manage Conflict at Work

9 Ways to Manage Conflict at Work

One of the most common challenges that nearly all of us experience in our workplace is conflict. In fact, 85% of workers experience conflict at work on some level and research shows that people spend an average of 2.8 hours at work each week dealing with conflict.

Conflict is a natural and inevitable part of any workplace, so with that in mind, it’s important that we learn effective ways of approaching and managing conflict so that it doesn’t impact negatively on our productivity, morale and wellbeing.

Here are 9 of the best ways to manage conflict at work:

1. ACKNOWLEDGE THE CONFLICT

Conflict can be especially challenging for women as we are wired to create harmony so may lean away from conflict and take on an avoidance conflict management style that may not serve us. Ignoring conflict won’t make it go away because when conflict is avoided, nothing is resolved. The first step to resolving any conflict is to acknowledge that it exists. We need to take the time to listen to both sides and understand the issues we are dealing with.

2. LISTEN ACTIVELY

Active listening is a critical skill in conflict resolution because it’s vital to understand the other person’s point of view and where they’re coming from. Developing empathy for the other person will help you understand why the conflict has arisen in the first place. Make sure you are fully present in the conversation, paying attention to both the words being spoken and the nonverbal cues. Repeat back what you've heard to ensure you understand the other person's perspective.

3. STAY CALM AND RESPOND

Emotions can easily escalate in a conflict, which can make the situation worse. Avoid reacting with anger or defensiveness, by remembering to pause. Managing conflict is a great opportunity to practice mindfulness. It’s amazing how much of a difference it can make to stop, take a breath and give yourself some time to respond rather than react. One thing that will help you to stay calm and manage your response is the next tip, which is to focus on the problem and work the process, not the person.

4. FOCUS ON THE PROBLEM AND WORK THE PROCESS, NOT THE PERSON

This is one of the most impactful tips I teach in the Women Rising program – work the process not the person. It’s important to focus on the problem at hand and not either take it personally or make personal attacks. Afterall, if you want to resolve conflict, you need to be finding solutions to the problem at hand rather than becoming distracted by the other person’s behaviour. A good way to ensure that the conversation doesn’t become accusatory is to use ‘I’ statements. For example, instead of saying "You're always interrupting me," you could say "I feel frustrated when I'm interrupted."

5. APPROACH THE SITUATION WITH CURIOSITY

The best way to approach any conflict is through the lens of curiosity. The goal is to understand the situation from the other person’s perspective, get clear on the needs they are trying to get met, identify why the conflict may have arisen in the first place and to find a solution that works for everyone. When you come to a conversation with the intention of staying curious, it reminds you to ask questions (rather than make statements) and keeps you grounded in your growth mindset. The best question to ask yourself in these situations is: what can I learn here?

6. FIND COMMON GROUND

Finding common ground can help to bring people together and find a resolution. This means looking for areas of agreement and working from there. It can be so easy to focus on what’s not working and the areas where you differ, rather than recognising that you probably have more in common than you think and that each party is simply trying to achieve a particular outcome. What is it that both parties are trying to achieve and how can you go from there?

7. BRAINSTORM SOLUTIONS

Once you’ve identified the issues at hand, it’s time to brainstorm solutions. This means getting everyone involved and coming up with ideas together. Ideally, you want to get to a place where your conflict resolution style is either collaborating or compromising. In brainstorming solutions, be sure to keep an open mind and encourage everyone to contribute to get to a positive outcome.

8. AGREE ON A PLAN OF ACTION

Once a solution has been identified, it’s important to agree on a plan of action and next steps. Set clear expectations and outline who will be responsible for which actions. Make sure that together you document the plan of action and who is responsible for each part of the plan.

9. FOLLOW UP

A critical step that is often missed in managing conflict is following up to ensure that the issue has been resolved, and that everyone is satisfied with the outcome. This means checking in with everyone involved and making sure that the plan of action is working as intended.

 

We hope you find this list of ideas helpful as you navigate conflict in the workplace. This can be a tricky area for a lot of women, particularly those who have people-pleasing tendencies and find themselves avoiding conflict because they don’t want to ruffle any feathers.

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