People are all different, and in the close quarters of the workplace, it is inevitable that they will have conflict sometimes. Think of conflict resolution as a team sport and a skill that you can improve upon over time. Here are a few ways to effectively confront conflict with a boss or coworker:
Distinguish good conflict from bad conflict. There is such a thing as healthy conflict! People pushing each other for new ideas or debating the pros and cons of different approaches to tackle a project are examples of conflict that’s good for your professional growth and your organization. Bad conflict, on the other hand, might involve unproductive arguments, hostile treatment of others, stalled projects due to disagreements and similar situations. This is the kind of conflict you want to sort out in a timely manner, as it doesn’t usually go away on its own.
Figure out the source. Identifying the source of a conflict is an essential first step you must take to be able to actually address the problem. There are many different types that occur within the workplace, usually arising from:
- Differences of opinion
- Misunderstandings/communication problems
- Problematic individuals
- Stress (of one person or multiple people)
- Personality differences
- Lack of empathy/understanding of others’ work styles and methods
If you need a third-party perspective on the conflict, try talking with a mentor or trusted colleague or visit with your human resources professional for guidance.
Plan out your goals. Before taking any steps to address a conflict, think through (and consider writing out) what you want to accomplish. Here are a few examples of goals:
- To improve your working relationship with another individual.
- To resolve an interpersonal conflict.
- To decrease your stress level due to a specific situation.
- To come to an agreement about the right way to do something.
- To work more effectively with certain individuals or groups.
Communicate. Once you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to deal with the conflict swiftly and directly. Ask your colleague or boss to talk through the issue and avoid making emotion-fueled accusations. Instead, start by attempting to find some sort of common ground. For example, perhaps you both want to complete a project on time. Start the conversation there to build rapport and focus your conversation on the best way to achieve your shared objective, whatever that might be.
Tackle with trial and error.
It might take a few attempts to fix a conflict—and a strategy to handle one kind of conflict might not work for another kind. Try different approaches. Those might include collaborating to find a mutually beneficial solution, compromising to each “give” a little, clarifying the miscommunications that led to the conflict or agreeing to drop a matter and simply move forward.
Disagreements are part of life and work, but when conflicts go unresolved, they can snowball and cause even more problems. Take a mature, proactive approach to solving each conflict situation that arises. In doing so, you will nurture your career growth and help improve your work environment for you and your colleagues.