How much time do you spend dealing with conflict in the workplace? A CBI reports say that it takes 20% of a leader’s time, – which is 370 million working days! Then there is the cost of stress and resignations on top… Does it have to be this way? Some clashes are inevitable – we need some to challenge stale thinking and provoke progress – but how much time could we save by handling conflicts more effectively?
It makes sense to equip your people to know the basics of dealing with conflicts, so that they are equipped and able to cope as they arise. It makes even more sense to avoid problems by nipping them in the bud, or even better still, establishing good working relationships and mutual understanding so that less clashes occur.
If you are clashing with a colleague, it’s all too easy to react emotionally or with insufficient thought. Before it escalates, try thinking it through to get to the bottom of the problem.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you try to fix the problem:
- Examine yourself first. Are you sure of the facts, or are there assumptions or opinions too? Check the facts, using hard evidence, not hearsay.
- Does the other person have the facts too? Spend some time trying to understand it from their point of view.
- What is at stake here ? What are potential outcomes and the worst case scenario?
- How did it get to this? What were the triggers? What other factors were involved?
- What is your common ground, and what are your differences?
- How much of the conflict is down to differing personalities?
- What is the best way of getting through to someone with Topi’s (The Other Person Involved) personal style?
Dealing with Feeling
Doing some analysis of the situation can help you view it objectively, and see what is really going on clearly of course, then main thing that often fogs the issue is our own feelings; it’s worthwhile thinking about the emotions that the conflict raises in you. The first step is identifying what the emotions you are experiencing are. Are they appropriate in this situation? Is it just about this current conflict, or are they longer standing, perhaps just triggered recently? This is often the case, and can result in the situation escalating when it’s not the real cause of the upset.
Having emotions is normal, but do remember that you have choices in how you deal with them. How we respond to our feelings and handle them is the key to our emotional intelligence. In the workplace, it is important to consider what it acceptable and what the boundaries are.
A couple more tips
Don’t be afraid to wait until emotion has subsided before you take on a difficult conversation. You may feel like getting it over and done with quickly, but you may get a better result if you think through the questions above and take a little time before you respond. If you need time to compose yourself, tell Topi when you will have that conversation, so that they know you are not avoiding the issue.
Let Topi (The Other Person Involved) know that you have heard and understood his point of view. This is acknowledgment, which is not the same as agreeing. Feeling heard is a very basic human need. The Three Step Tango in Face to Face in the Workplace tells you more about this and is a helpful model for a challenging conversation.
If there was a productive way forward that puts the onus on you to change, what would it be? You might well think it’s not your responsibility to make the next move, but you can control yourself – and you can’t control Topi. It makes sense to deal with that which is in your control, doesn’t it?
If your people would be more productive if they handled conflict better, do get in touch to discuss options. I’m always to talk things through firstname.lastname@example.org 0845 5197571
By Julie Cooper
Author of Face to Face in the Workplace
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