Business/Career

Navigating Workplace Conflicts: Do’s and Don’ts 

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Navigating Workplace Conflicts: Do's and Don'ts 
Written by Robin Okwanma

Perhaps the greatest challenge in all human interactions is the fact that WE CANNOT ALWAYS AGREE ON EVERYTHING. There are myriads of people with all kinds of circumstances affecting them. And making certain persons think and behave in ways that appear antagonistic or difficult to work with. Conflict resolution in the workplace (and elsewhere) is one skill set we all need to learn. If only to reap better rewards from personal or work relationships, whether things appear to be in our favour or not at any time. It is definitely worth investing in.

We have all had one such person or another in the workplace or elsewhere (even in a family) proving difficult, so to speak. Do you merely quit your work or avoid such people to get that much needed peace of mind? Before you quit, let’s examine and apply the following workplace conflict resolution strategies. And see if they help ease the dark mood that comes with thinking about that ‘troublesome’ person.

Resolving Workplace Conflicts: Observe These Do’s and Don’ts

Start by Cooling Down First

At that point in time when a disagreement or a difference in opinion takes place between you and that boss or colleague, the tension would probably be high on both sides. You likely get hurt and hot all at once; your emotions are all worked up. It is hardly practicable or possible to have a decent discussion at that time. So learn not to overreact; excuse yourself, go and cool down. You can ask the other person to allow you (or he/she could choose) to reschedule the discussion for another convenient time, after thinking things through.

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Take Control of Your Emotions: Don’t Act Like How You Feel

Simple as it may sound, the art of controlling one’s feelings (and thoughts) takes a lot of practice. Even more, not allowing your behavior to be dictated by your emotions is an incredible feat you cannot achieve in a day. But you need to imbibe and practice these two skills by all means, it does not come naturally. You must work on yourself continually to take mastery of your emotions and behavior. This is critical to resolving conflicts anywhere, including the workplace.

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It is quite normal to get angry, or feel disappointed by the other person’s actions. But it becomes dangerous to react through aggression, or extreme withdrawal. You could end up eliciting an equally negative reaction from the other person, which solves nothing. Before your actions become harsh or abusive, or your words get very abrasive – stop and caution yourself.

Resist the Urge to Blame or Tag the Other Person

While attempting to resolve an issue, approach the conversation from a neutral standpoint. Don’t accuse the other person of being wrong, or blaming him or her for his/her actions. You automatically put the other person on the defensive. He or she naturally moves to defend himself or herself from being attacked.

At this point, it does not matter who is right. Focus more on expressing how the situation makes you feel (what you experience) and not on what is wrongly done by the other. And take time to listen to his/her own perspective, understand how the other person feels as well. This approach would slow down any resistance from the other person. Because now he or she does not feel like the target or victim of any accusation.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions. And Never Assume You are Entirely Right.

Never assume you are completely right in your standpoint. You must learn to see the same issue from the other person’s viewpoint, no matter how much it differs from yours. This would require your willingness to listen to each other, and ask questions for clarification. Because no matter how strong your opinions are, you cannot be 100% right all the time. And that holds true for every person.

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It is a similar ideology to looking at a diamond from different angles; each angle presents a different facet to you. Yet it is the same diamond. Very often, people see the same situation from different angles. So you need to show empathy and ‘come around’ to see each other’s viewpoint – or visualize being in the other person’s shoes. This is an important strategy to resolve workplace and personal conflicts.

Abandon the ‘Enemy’ Mentality

It is important to see people around you, including your fellow workers as colleagues working to solve a common problem or achieve common goals. Not as antagonists, or someone interfering with your goal or vision. It should never be a competition to reward the fittest, toughest hardliner. No, your efforts should complement each other, not supplant. There is actually no ‘Me versus You’ if you apply some understanding.

Focus on The Goal

Better still – focus on the goal, not the obstacle. You can write down your goals for the day, week or month and target the most essential ones first. Ensure that your mind is fixed on achieving those goals as you rub minds and interact with that colleague. That thinking pattern will make you target solutions more than the disagreement or challenges in the way.

Try and Try Again: Find Out What Works

You can do some experimentation to test which approach(es) work in making that colleague more cooperative. Outline a few actions or steps you wish to do differently, test them out and see if his/her response improves. And if one should fail, try out another approach until you get it right.

But just in case you do not find that right approach – focus more on improving yourself anyway.

Take Note: No One is An Expert at Resolving Conflicts!

Conflict resolution is not an inborn skill. No one is naturally good at it. You need to train yourself and learn from teachers, mentors, books, and experience, to master the art of resolving conflict. You simply have to work on yourself, it does not come cheap.

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Resolving Workplace Conflict: Counseling Helps

Life can be tough. The vast majority of people are victims of abuse or shocking events that occurred while growing up, that they could not heal from. We all faced one unresolved issue or another, or have been wounded by certain persons we knew or were strangers. These experiences leave permanent scars on the heart or the subconscious mind, making you react (negatively) to other people or situations in a certain way.

So get yourself the much needed help by unlearning negative thought patterns and learning helpful ones. Retrain yourself by seeking mental health counseling, reading self-help books, and following good examples from mentors. Identify people who can, and will help you in the healing process; then put all the knowledge to work.

Final Thoughts

It is never too late nor unnecessary to learn the great art of resolving conflicts in the workplace and life. Take that extra step to improve the quality of your relationships with colleagues and loved ones. Because it makes a huge difference to your life and happiness if you can.

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About the author

Robin Okwanma

Hi, I'm Robin Okwanma. Software Engineer || Django, Python || React, React Native || Blogger. Technical Writer.