There is an old adage that goes something like, “the only things certain in life are death and taxes”. While Benjamin Franklin was likely being facetious when he said that, there is an underlying truth to his message that there exist things that are unavoidable. That being said, I’d like to propose that conflict be added to this list.
One need only glance in the annals of history to see that conflict has plagued humanity since, well, forever and has defined virtually every aspect of our modern society. Conflicts come in many different forms, can occur between anyone (including but not limited to friends, enemies, family, co-workers, etc.), and be about virtually anything (politics, religion, who made the last pot of coffee).
There are few things that can be more devastating to a business’ productivity and workplace satisfaction than interpersonal conflicts between our peers, superiors, and even our subordinates. Fortunately, the fundamentals of conflict resolution still apply regardless of the individuals involved, their relationship, the nature of the conflict/dispute/argument. Here are three simple tips to help you resolve workplace conflicts or stop them in their tracks:
1) Don’t Take It Personally- It’s natural for us to take any criticism from others personally and react defensively in an attempt to defend our work and our pride. Avoid doing this at all costs as this can easily escalate conflicts or lead to future ones. This is especially true if you feel that the one offering criticism is over stepping their jurisdiction and not in a position to offer said criticism or is just plain wrong. Rather than get upset and defensive one should calmly reiterate the expectations and objective of the work in question, and explain how you believe your work or actions have contributed to accomplishing this task. Odds are that the one offering criticism isn’t trying to offend you so you should not take it that way.
Do: React calmly, compare expectations and goals, accept constructive criticism
Don’t: Raise your voice, ignore recommendations, call each other names (tempting though it may be)
2) Focus- We have a natural tendency to drift from the original argument or inquiry either prolonging or escalating a conflict. One thing can easily lead to another and what started as a simple debate between the merits of having the office post-its be one colour or another has suddenly turned into questioning each others ability to make important business decisions (it happens for often that you’d think). While one’s inability to make a business decision can be an important issue to address, though it may not actually be the case, you’re no closer to resolving the initial all-important crisis of which colour the post-its should be (green, no contest). Not only is drifting unproductive, it causes more problems that may not actually exist (see above).
Do: Stay on track, ask good questions, be willing to admit you’re wrong
Don’t: Create problems, be unreasonable, bring their mother into it
3) Be Clear- Ambiguity is the archenemy of conflict resolution. How can you possibly be expected to resolve a conflict if nobody involved fully understands what the problem is about or how it came to be. Using the proper language will help you articulate exactly what the problem is and bring you that much closer to resolving it. That’s it, I’d hate to fail to follow my own advice and go any longer.
Do: Think about what you’re trying to say, say it, use small words if you have to
Don’t: Over complicate the issue, be ambiguous,