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Published on October 14, 2020

How to Resolve Conflict in the Workplace Effectively

How to Resolve Conflict in the Workplace Effectively

Conflict is part of life. We can get into conflicting viewpoints with our coworkers, spouse, kids, the guy at the convenience store, etc. The truth is that even though we strive to be nice and get along with others, conflict is a natural part of life that can occur in any place where we have a relationship with others. That’s why it’s important to know how to resolve conflict.

Some of us are better at dealing with conflict than others. Personally, I don’t have an issue confronting a difference of opinion right when it occurs. My wife, on the other hand, does not like conflict and typically needs at least a few hours to process and think through whatever it was we disagreed on. We can then talk through our differences.

Her method of dealing with our disagreements is probably better than mine because my quick-to-confront-type routine has gotten me into trouble more than once. This has certainly proven to be true in my case at work on more than one occasion, which leads us to the question: how to resolve conflict in the workplace effectively?

What Is Conflict?

Just so we are all on the same page I thought it would be a good idea to clearly define the word conflict. According to the dictionary, a conflict is “a struggle or a clash between opposing forces; a battle or state of opposition between ideas, interests, etc. Also known as a disagreement or controversy, or a clash.”

Simple version: it’s when two or more people don’t agree on something and it escalates a bit to any manner of degrees. This can from two people stating their own side of the issue and then walking away from each other to a shouting match or even gathering other people on their side to try to win the battle. We see this play out in many versions and varieties in all aspects of our lives.

Conflict in the Workplace

Let’s take a look at some of the most common conflict situations in the workplace. After we do that, we will take a deeper dive into how to resolve conflict in the workplace effectively.

1. Personality Conflicts

This is where you have to remember that we are all different human beings.

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I like to talk a lot. Maybe I work next to a coworker who prefers quiet while working, but I keep chattering away all day long. Perhaps the person sitting next to you is an avid sports fan and dresses in their favorite team’s jersey every Friday, but you dislike sports. There are many variations of this same thing.

2. Leadership Conflicts

While there are some well-known management styles like the micromanager, the bold visionary, or the open door person, the reality is that there are many different styles as there are people. And as we all know, not everyone gets along with every type of leadership style.

I used to manage people, but I have been an individual contributor for 15 years. My personality type is such that I like a lot of room to create my own way I do a job. At the end of the day, I am very good at what I do and highly successful. That said, I could never work for a micromanager who watches my every move and needs to stay in communication about everything I do. It would drive me crazy and lead to many conflicts for sure.

3. Interdependence Conflicts

You see this one all the time. This is where one person has to rely on another person’s actions to get their own job done, and it doesn’t happen.

Say you are working to put together a deck for an upcoming presentation. You need some numbers for last quarter’s sales results. Bob in accounting is supposed to get you those numbers by a certain date, but he wasn’t able to. Your deadline is looming and you are waiting on Bob who doesn’t answer his phone or respond to email. This makes your blood boil and leads to a place where nobody is happy.

4. Discrimination

Unfortunately, discrimination conflict happens in the workplace as well. This, of course, is when there may be harassment or conflict due to someone’s race, age, religion, gender, and so on. Typically, these get escalated to Human Resources quickly as fortunately, many companies have a no-tolerance policy.

5. Work Style Conflicts

Work style conflicts relate to the way we work both individually or as a team. As mentioned above, I need the latitude to get my job done the way I feel is best. That doesn’t mean I don’t follow the rules and the processes. I just sometimes figure out ways to be more efficient about it to get it done quicker. As such, if someone told me I needed to check 40 boxes to do my job, we would have a problem.

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Some people like to work alone while others in groups. Some people like me dislike being micromanaged, while some people like to get input from others regularly. I like music playing upon occasion when I work, but many people aren’t a fan of that. These are work style conflicts.

6. Creative Idea Conflicts

Creative idea conflicts happen during brainstorming sessions. Two people have different visions or ideas of how a project or idea should be. This type of conflict can actually be very beneficial if the two people are open-minded enough to listen to each other and cooperate on the idea. Many times, it can be the best of both worlds.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it covers the majority of types of conflicts in the workplace.

How to Resolve Conflict in the Workplace Effectively

Now that we’ve looked at some of the most common types of conflict on the job let’s look at how to resolve conflict in the workplace effectively.

1. Calm Down

First and foremost, teach yourself to take a deep breath and calm down. Using myself as an example once again, I can tell you I’ve gotten myself in hot water by not calming down when I’ve gotten upset at something that has led to conflict.

Calming down can many times help prevent conflict. Tell me if this sounds familiar: you receive an email that makes you instantly mad. You immediately fire back a scathing response and feel better—at least for a minute, until you realize what your diatribe probably just opened the door for.

This is something I have been guilty of in more than a few instances. When I am smarter, I take the time to calm down before I respond. This typically leads to much better results.

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When conflict has already occurred, do your best to keep calm when you are getting ready to engage with the person you’ve disagreed with. Approaching the conversation with a cooler head will go a long way towards resolving the issue.

2. Clear Communication

I am a huge advocate of the power of clear communication in every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, many times I seem to be in the minority. Many conflicts happen due to unclear communication. This usually leads to someone misunderstanding another person’s intent (if there even was an intent).

We tend to take things personally. It’s just the way we are built. In reality, very few things are actually directed at us—it’s just the way we interpret them. By practicing clear communication, you will help minimize conflict and it will help you understand the other person better, leading to faster and more effective conflict resolution.

3. Practice Active Listening

Remember, active listening is when you are truly paying attention to what someone is saying—not looking at your phone when it beeps, not typing an email when someone is talking to you, etc.

You must focus all of your attention on what the person is saying to you. This is vital to resolving the conflict because it is so powerful to truly understand what someone is saying instead of what you think they are saying. Practice your proactive listening skills so that you can become a master of dealing with conflict at work.

4. Self-Reflect

The ability to self-reflect and look at the mirror will benefit you when you find yourself in a disagreement at work. Unfortunately, quite a few people don’t take the time to slow down and look at their own part in the conflict. Being able to do this and being honest about the part you have played in the conflict is vital to working towards a mutually agreeable conclusion in the matter.

When you can look inward and see the parts that you have caused, you then have the ability to accept your portion and most importantly, tell the other person you know that you were part of the reason things blew up.

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When someone tells another person “hey, I apologize. I know when I shared my thoughts through email with the rest of the team that really wasn’t the right thing to do,” it will go a long way towards mending that particular fence.

5. Get to Conflict Resolution

Finally, working to a conclusion where everyone feels comfortable about the outcome is an incredibly effective way to resolve conflict in the workplace. If you think about it, if you never actually solve the dispute then the bad feelings will tend the linger.

Work to get to conflict resolution so everyone can get back to working together effectively and happily. When you get to a place where everyone feels comfortable, the workplace becomes a place you want to be in again.

Conclusion

There you have it, how to resolve conflict in the workplace effectively. Conflict happens in every area of our lives where relationships are involved. Every one of us is different, so it’s only natural that we will have friction and discord from time to time.

When you are aware of some of the key ways to resolve the disagreement in the workplace and other areas of your life, you will develop some great skills at living a healthy and fulfilling life.

More Tips on How to Resolve Conflicts

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

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Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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