Have you ever had a disagreement with a co-worker or your boss that escalated into something ugly? Has your work suffered as a result of an unresolved workplace conflict? How often have you had to take a ‘mental health day’ off from work to recover from a challenging conversation with someone with whom you have had a personality clash? Or maybe you simply decided to quit.
Don’t feel alone. Workplace conflict comes with the territory. According to Career Builder, human resources managers report spending 24 to 60 percent of their time dealing with employee disputes. A recent survey conducted by Accenture reports that 35% of employees leave their jobs voluntarily because of internal politics and conflict. Workplace conflict is not only stressful but can impair one’s career. Here are some measures you can take to manage conflict at work and reduce the stress.
1. Put it in perspective. How serious is the conflict? Was your boss having an off day or perhaps getting hammered by the executive staff and decided to take it out on you? Sit back, take five and determine if this is an isolated incident or a repeat performance. If the later is the case then you need to have a conversation.
2. Seek to understand first than to be understood. When conflict occurs, it generates an emotional charge that makes it difficult for us to see the other person’s point of view. We are so focused on our agenda we forget to give our co-worker our undivided attention and hear her out. Remain calm and let her tell her side of the story first.
3. Actively listen. Resolving conflict requires the highest degree of communication, which is made possible by actively listening. Giving your undivided attention and giving non-verbal affirmations such as making eye contact and nodding to show understanding can help build trust. Keep an open mind while listening to the other person rather than jumping to conclusions.
4. Become comfortable having uncomfortable conversations. Judith Glaser, Executive Coach and author of ‘Conversational Intelligence’ suggests people in conflict ‘reframe and relabel uncomfortable conversations as opportunities to get to know what’s on each other’s minds.’ This moves us from distrust of others’ intentions to understanding and trusting each other’.
Workplace conflict will always exist in organizations. It does not, however, have to spell the end of your relationship with your employer. Most workplace conflicts can be managed successfully if dealt with early on. Be proactive and initiate the conversation at the first sign of tension. Remember it’s your career so it is up to you to manage it. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.