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There will always be conflict in the workplace, and in a way, the first step to managing conflict at work is to accept that it will arise at some point. If people disagree, or if they clash in some way, it does not mean they can’t move past it and resolve their encounter. There are many things that individuals and whole organisations can put into practice to reduce and resolve conflict.
Whatever your home situation is, it is so important to leave your emotions behind once you get to work. This is important for two reasons, the first is that you need to focus at work, and if you let things in your life come into work then it will stop you from doing your job. Additionally, emotions should not be involved in business decisions, and you should be thinking about things objectively and without personal bias. Try and get in to the mentality that work is a place for focus and subjectivity.
The other way that emotion can cause conflict is if you let emotions get in the way of communication. For example, if you’re in a meeting and you disagree with what someone is saying, try not to let emotion cloud you, and try to let them know in a non-threatening way. Wait until you have calmed down before you answer, or perhaps wait until the meeting is over to let someone know your opinion, as then it won’t feel as confrontational.
The worst way to deal with conflict is to pretend it does not exist, as I’ve already stated, conflict is going to arise at work whether you like it or not, so you need to be prepared to deal with it. If you sense someone has a problem with you, or if you have a problem with someone, the best thing to do is take them aside quietly, and discuss it in a calm way. If you bottle up how you feel and keep biting your tongue it becomes hard to stay professional, and you risk it coming out in an outburst, rather than in a sensible discussion.
You’re in a meeting and someone disagrees with an idea that you’ve been working on for ages, and they’re very forthright with how much they dislike your idea. You feel attacked, you let your emotions get the better of you, and your reaction is to come back at them with a similar tirade, and an argument breaks out. Feeling emotions is completely normal, but it’s what we do with them that counts. Never react in the spur of the moment, instead wait until you’re calm, and then continue the discussion. This stops conflict before it even happens, and will make for a more peaceful work atmosphere.
In the heat of the moment it is so easy to get caught up in conflict, but it is so important to try not to take things so seriously. The best thing to do if you’re feeling a little frazzled and like you just might explode, remove yourself from the situation. Go to the bathroom, go to your office, pop out to get a cup of coffee, do anything that will be a momentary distraction and change of scene. Remain polite, calm, and simply say you’d rather continue the discussion later. This is the mature thing to do, and it will prevent conflict.
So many people, especially us Brits, find it difficult to ask questions. Asking questions does not make you stupid, it actually makes you very sensible, and can be a major factor when trying to avoid conflict in any situation. If you don’t understand what someone is talking about, if you don’t understand their actions, or if you can’t see things from their point of view, then it’s bound to end up in conflict. So before that happens, ask them! The best thing to do with a conflict or difficult situation is to see it as a learning experience, and if you ask the questions, you’ll get the answer, and can move on. Simple!
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