While interpersonal conflict can seem like an unavoidable fact of office life, your approach to it is ultimately what determines how it affects both you and those around you. By acting in a mature and reasonable manner, you can turn disagreements into opportunities for learning and personal growth. Take a look at these four tips for managing conflict in a professional manner, and think about how you can best incorporate them to help foster a friendly, tension-free office environment.
1. Keep It Professional, Not Personal
If you and a colleague disagree strongly about the best way to approach something, you might find that you’re repeatedly at odds in meetings or private conversations. If you’re not careful, it can be easy to let what should be a professional difference of opinion slide into personal animosity. Nip this in the bud by making an effort to show that you respect the other party. This could mean inviting them to grab coffee or a drink, or just stopping by their desk to clear the air and let them know that you value their opinions.
2. Be Proactive
Small disagreements can easily blossom into bigger ones if they’re not addressed promptly and professionally. If you feel tension growing between yourself and an office mate, take action quickly — letting it simmer only adds layers of difficulty that you’ll have to work through later. This can be informal, or it can mean scheduling a time to meet with the other person to discuss ways to defuse the situation.
3. Never Assume
Assigning motives is one of the most counterproductive things you can do. Assuming the worst about a coworker can only lead to unnecessary conflict and animosity. Communication is your friend in these situations—if you’re upset by how you feel a colleague is treating you, talk to them about it, and you should be able to clear up any misunderstandings or perceived slights.
4. Get Help
Enlisting a neutral observer can temper the passions of those directly involved in a disagreement. By acting as a mediator, this person can adjudicate a dispute in a manner that is fair to all parties. Unbiased advice from a friend or colleague can also be useful, and help to put things in perspective. Avoid making people feel like they have to choose sides in an argument, and instead accept the input and recommendations that your colleagues can provide.
Given the nature of work and people, some level of conflict is inevitable in any organization. A well-run office, however, converts friction into energy for learning and growing. By following best practices for conflict management, any employee can contribute to this kind of positive, dynamic culture.
I have found these two books contain helpful advice for resolving all conflicts that you are likely to have in life, Crucial Conversations and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The later contains one habit that I found particularly useful is that you should seek first to understand before being understood.
[…] For more guidance on how to pursue these strategies, check out other resources from GovLoop on communicating feedback to peers and managing workplace conflict. […]