Conflict: Should You Combat or Embrace It?

Growing up, most of us were taught at home that arguing is a “bad” thing, and that we should try to get along with others. As a result, conflict makes us uncomfortable – and it’s something we naturally avoid.

But the rules of engagement are different in the workplace.

Channeled properly, disagreements, confrontations and tough conversations at work provide tremendous opportunities to:

  • Build trust and loyalty
  • Spark change and creative problem-solving
  • Create synergy
  • Improve productivity

IF those conflicts are handled constructively, that is.

So, if you’re the type of manager who doesn’t exactly relish mitigating disputes or instigating uncomfortable conversations, flip your thinking. Instead of anticipating the worst, consider what you have to gain. Use these tips to embrace conflict, handle it professionally, and get the results you want:

Frame the situation positively.

The terms “dispute,” “squabble” and “argument” all carry negative connotations that start conversations off on the wrong foot. Tempers may be flared, and feelings may even be hurt. Choose your words carefully, and be mindful of each party’s unique role and point of view.

Before beginning discussion, remind all parties involved that your shared goal is to develop a mutually agreed-upon solution, and that all communications should be respectful. By framing the situation positively and focusing on resolution, you set the stage for productive communication.

Be compassionate, yet direct.

While it’s tempting to beat around the bush, you’re only delaying the inevitable. It’s best to get to the heart of the matter quickly. If the subject is serious, explain that feedback presented may be hard to hear, but necessary.

Guide the conversation with active listening.

Active listening is an essential conflict resolution skill in which each party demonstrates that they understand, and consider, the other’s point of view. As you begin discussions, allow each participant the opportunity to present their side of the story and ask questions. Instruct everyone to:

  • Listen without judging or interrupting.
  • Never make assumptions.
  • Summarize and restate what the other person has said.
  • Probe for clarification, when necessary.
  • Stick to facts and behaviors (e.g., “You were late by more than 15 minutes three times last week.).
  • Describe the impact of those work behaviors (e.g., “Those late starts caused production line delays that caused us to miss an important client deadline.).
  • Avoid name-calling, sweeping generalizations (e.g., “He always…” “She never…”) and personal attacks.

Keep emotions in check.

Throughout your discussions, be careful not to let frustration or anger derail efforts. If individuals start reacting emotionally, redirect their focus back to the issue at hand. And if someone loses their temper, take a quick break. Before resuming, reiterate the need to stick to the facts, curb emotional impulses and work on a solution – not vent.

Aim for understanding and focus on shared goals.

When working through conflict, prioritize understanding over 100% consensus. Even if parties involved agree to disagree, strive to reach a compromise that’s in the company’s best interest:

  • Discuss what each party could do more of, less of, stop or start (again, focus on actions and behaviors).
  • Use an area of compromise or a shared goal as a starting point for resolving the issue.
  • End the discussion by having each participant commit to concrete steps they will take toward resolving the conflict.

Review progress. 

Once commitments are made, set a time to review progress, and hold participants accountable for living up to their commitments.

Looking to reduce conflicts in your workplace?

As a nationwide staffing and employment agency, PrideStaff’s solutions:

  • Minimize stress and burnout for employees, keeping them happy and operating at peak efficiency.
  • Allow you to build a relationship with a potential employee and gauge their suitability before making an offer for employment.

To learn more about our staffing and placement options, contact your local PrideStaff office today.