Being in a positive work environment with a great corporate culture is ideal, but chances are that even if you work at a company you like, people are sure to butt heads once in a while. Whether you're the manager in charge or dealing directly with a disagreement, it's essential to learn how to resolve conflict in the workplace. "Unresolved conflict often results in loss of productivity, the stifling of creativity, and the creation of barriers to cooperation and collaboration," says Mike Myatt, a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs and author of Hacking Leadership.
And interestingly enough, workplace conflict often is not just experienced between individuals, but between teams and departments, too. No matter the situation, until hard feelings no longer exist, you're preventing the company from functioning at an optimal level. It's also important to note that shying away from conflict is something that you do not want to do on a professional level, but you don't have to be particularly aggressive to assert yourself either. Keep reading to see six steps for how to deal with conflict in the workplace.
It's time to learn how to settle a problem—and fast.
Don't ignore it
Conflict is a natural part of life, so pretending it isn’t happening at the office isn’t going to get us anywhere. “As time goes on, tension will build—and the conflict only will get worse,” says Mike Kappel, an entrepreneur and founder of Patriot Software Company. “Deal with these uncomfortable issues as soon as possible, before problems and bad feelings become embedded in everyday work.” Disagreements, like most things, can turn into a habit and become harder to kick with each day that passes.
Address the problem when you first recognize it, whether it’s affecting you or one of your direct reports.
Schedule a meet-up
Whether you're meeting one-on-one to hash out your differences or scheduling a re-group for a larger team, send a meeting invite with a clear indicator of what will be discussed. You don't want anyone to feel like they are taken off guard or that they are being ganged up on. By giving a heads up, all parties will be able to prepare what they need to say to get their point across. "Set up a time and place so you can talk for an extended span without outside interruptions," says Kappel. This means you should book a conference room or a private area rather than a spot where others can overhear.
Put the business first
Sometimes it's hard not to take things personally. When you start thinking about how the conflict relates to you, of course you're going to feel more heated (and this can stop you from thinking logically). That's why it's often best to take a step back. Co-founder and managing partner of Paravis Partners Amy Jen Su suggests asking yourself the question: "What does the business need most?" This is one of the best ways for you think objectively about what your next steps should be. You end goal should be what benefits the company, not just what is beneficial to you.
When it comes to discussing what you've seen, take your opinion out of it. "Use observations, not labels," instructs Jen Su. Simply describe what you've encountered without putting blame on the other person. For example, if a colleague has been interrupting you in meetings, you can plan to say something like: "I've noticed that our communication is a little off in meetings, and it's affecting our presentations. Can we work together to find a nonverbal cue that will help us transition between speakers?"
Take time to listen
It's crucial that both parties feel that they are heard. In order to make sure that each has an appropriate amount of time to speak their mind, there should be someone moderating the discussion. When it comes to your trying to understand the other party, make sure you are not interrupting them with your thoughts. Instead, hear what they have to say and then paraphrase it back to them to validate that you've understood their P.O.V. Kappel suggests using a version of this question: "Let me make sure I understand.
You're upset about _____ because _____." And let's be frank, this is not your time to get your two cents in.
Stand up for yourself
Yes, you should still be respectful, but it's important for you to stand up for yourself at the office. Jen Su says that we shouldn't be afraid to speak our minds when necessary, and that we're often scared to do so because of a negative past experience from earlier in our careers. "Many [people] have an 'a-ha' moment when they realize they're no longer that younger version of themselves; they're now a more seasoned, experienced person with new skills and know-how," she says.
After you speak your mind, the skill will become easier going forward. And remember that when it comes to how to resolve conflict in the workplace, this formula won't let you down.