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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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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How Relationships Building Helps Achieve Career Success

How Relationships Building Helps Achieve Career Success

As playwright Wilson Mizner supposedly said all the way back in the 1930s,

“Be kind to everyone on the way up; you will meet the same people on the way down.”

The adage is the perfect prototype for relationship building in 2020, although we may want to expand Mizner’s definition of “kind” to include being helpful, respectful, grateful, and above all, crediting your colleagues along the way.

5 Ways to Switch on Your Relationship Building Magnetism

Relationship building does not come easily to all. Today’s computer culture makes us more insular and less likely to reach out—not to mention our new work-from-home situation in which we are only able to interact virtually. Still, relationship building remains an important part of career engagement and success, and it gets better with practice.

Here are five ways you can strengthen your relationships:

1. Advocate for Other’s Ideas

Take the initiative to speak up in support of other team members’ good ideas. Doing so lets others know that the team’s success takes precedence over your needs for personal success. Get behind any colleague’s innovative approach or clever solution and offer whatever help you can give to see it through. Teammates will value your vote of confidence and your support.

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2. Show Compassion

If you learn that someone whom you work with has encountered difficult times, reach out. If it’s not someone you know well, a hand-written card expressing your sympathy and hopes for better times ahead could be an initial gesture. If it’s someone with whom you interact regularly, the act could involve offering to take on some of the person’s work to provide a needed reprieve or even bringing in a home-cooked dish as a way to offer comfort. The show of compassion will not go unnoticed, and your relationship building will have found a foothold.

3. Communicate Regularly

Make an effort to share any information with team members that will help them do their jobs more effectively. Keeping people in the loop says a lot about your consideration for what others need to deliver their best results.

Try to discover the preferred mode of communication for each team member. Some people are fine relying on emails; others like to have a phone conversation. And once we can finally return to working together in offices, you may determine that face-to-face updates may be most advantageous for some members.

4. Ask for Feedback

Showing your willingness to reach out for advice and guidance will make a positive impression on your boss. When you make it clear that you welcome and can accept pointers, you display candor and trust in what opinions your superior has to offer. Your proclivity towards considering ways of improving your performance and strengthening any working interactions will signal your strong relationship skills.

If you are in a work environment where you are asked to give feedback, be generous and compassionate. That does not mean being wishy-washy. Try always to give the type of feedback that you wouldn’t mind receiving.

5. Give Credit Where It’s Due

Be the worker who remembers to credit staffers with their contributions. It’s a surprisingly rare talent to credit others, but when you do so, they will remember to credit you, and the collective credit your team will accrue will be well worth the effort.

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How Does Relationship Building Build Careers?

Once you have strengthened and deepened your relationships, here are some of the great benefits:

Work Doesn’t Feel So Much Like Work

According to a Gallup poll, when you have a best friend at work, you are more likely to feel engaged with your job. Work is more fun when you have positive, productive relationships with your colleagues. Instead of spending time and energy overcoming difficult personalities, you can spend time enjoying the camaraderie with colleagues as you work congenially on projects together. When your coworkers are your friends, time goes by quickly and challenges don’t weigh as heavily.

You Can Find Good Help

It’s easier to ask for assistance when you have a good working relationship with a colleague. And with office tasks changing at the speed of technology, chances are that you are going to need some help acclimating—especially now that work has gone remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much of relationship building rests on your genuine expressions of appreciation toward others. Showing gratitude for another’s help or for their willingness to put in the extra effort will let them know you value them.

Mentors Come Out of the Woodwork

Mentors are proven to advance your professional and career development. A mentor can help you navigate how to approach your work and keep you apprised of industry trends. They have a plethora of experience to draw from that can be invaluable when advising you on achieving career success and advancement.

Mentors flock to those who are skilled at relationship building. So, work on your relationships and keep your eyes peeled for a worthy mentor.

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You Pull Together as a Team

Great teamwork starts with having an “abundance mentality” rather than a scarcity mentality. Too often, workers view all projects through a scarcity mentality lens. This leads to office strife as coworkers compete for their piece of the pie. But in an abundance mentality mode, you focus on the strengths that others bring rather than the possibility that they are potential competitors.

Instead, you can commit relationship building efforts to ensure a positive work environment rather than an adversarial one. When you let others know that you intend to support their efforts and contribute to their success, they will respond in kind. Go, team!

Your Network Expands and So Does Your Paycheck

Expand your relationship building scope beyond your coworkers to include customers, suppliers, and other industry stakeholders. Your extra efforts can lead to extra sales, a more rewarding career, and even speedy professional advancement. And don’t overlook the importance of building warm relationships with assistants, receptionists, or even interns.

Take care to build bridges, not just to your boss and your boss’s boss but with those that work under you as well. You may find that someone who you wouldn’t expect will put in a good word for you with your supervisor.

Building and maintaining good working relationships with everyone you come in contact with can pay off in unforeseen ways. You never know when that underling will turn out to be the company’s “golden child.” Six years from now you may be turning to them for a job. If you have built up a good, trusting work relationship with others along your way, you will more likely be considered for positions that any of these people may be looking to fill.

Your Job Won’t Stress You Out

Study shows that some 83 percent of American workers experience work-related stress.[1] Granted, some of that stress is now likely caused by the new pandemic-triggered workplace adjustments, yet bosses and management, in general, are reportedly the predominant source of stress for more than one-third of workers.

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Having meaningful connections among coworkers is the best way to make work less stressful. Whether it is having others whom to commiserate with, bounce ideas off, or bring out your best performance, friendships strengthen the group’s esprit de corps and lower the stress level of your job.

Your Career Shines Bright

Who would you feel better about approaching to provide a recommendation or ask for promotion: a cold, aloof boss with whom you have only an impersonal relationship or one that knows you as a person and with whom you have built a warm, trusting relationship?

Your career advancement will always excel when you have a mutual bond of friendship and appreciation with those who can recommend you. Consider the plug you could receive from a supervisor who knows you as a friend versus one who remains detached and only notices you in terms of your ability to meet deadlines or attain goals.

When people fully know your skills, strengths, personality, and aspirations, you have promoters who will sing your praises with any opportunity for advancement.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, it is “who you know” not “what you know.” When you build relationships, you build a pipeline of colleagues, work partners, team members, current bosses, and former bosses who want to help you—who want to see you succeed.

At its core, every business is a people business. Making a point to take the small but meaningful actions that build the foundation of a good relationship can be instrumental in cultivating better relationships at work.

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Featured photo credit: Adam Winger via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The American Institute of Stress: 42 Worrying Workplace Stress Statistics

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