Here at IKON HQ, we’re not fond of the idea of ‘avoiding’ conflict in the workplace. Conflict can’t be avoided as that gives no resolution, and therefore there is still conflict present.
However, people naturally use the word ‘avoid’ when they actually mean ‘resolve’. In this article, we will give 10 tips to help resolve a conflict in the workplace, maybe even before the other party would understand it as a conflict.
This is essential, if the other party sees you getting angry, they will also rise to meet your rage. This is human nature, and can’t be avoided without careful thought during the conflict situation.
In most cases, you can avoid anger altogether by taking responsibility for the situation and remaining calm. We’ve all felt that internal burning rage rising whilst having a disagreement, but if you release your frustrations the situation will snowball.
This is simply essential. If you leave conflict in the workplace unresolved, the other party can become more aggravated than at the initial issue.
A good way to empathise with this feeling is to think about when you’ve had a complaint with something you’ve bought, and while explaining the fault the member of staff just brushes past the actual problem.
That feeling of wanting to get something off your chest is what your conflict counterpart is feeling. Sometimes immediately addressing conflict in the workplace may not be the correct option. It could embarrass or offend other people so you need to think about when is best.
The idea here is to understand that if you are unfortunate enough to find out somebody is dissatisfied with you, you must act first. Bringing up the issue first means you have the opportunity to set the tone, and means you can act on points 1 & 2.
In order to resolve conflict in the workplace, “offer solutions, not problems”. This phrase has been thrown about for a while, but it really is true. If you’re positive with people, and offer solutions or compromises, it negates the opportunity for the other party to get angry.
You could also use phrases like, “It’s great that you’ve come to me with this problem”, “I respect that you can talk to me about this so openly” and “I feel it necessary to address this together”.
These phrases use positive language, and they also show the other party that you are willing to resolve the issue.
Listening is hard. For too long have people said, “I’m listening” when they probably aren’t. The skill of listening is more than hearing words, it is understand the information, and acting upon it appropriately. Use proactive listening – take yourself out of what you’re doing and give them your full attention.
6. Take a Time Out
So the situation is still getting a little out of hand and you’re letting your emotions get to you, and you’re starting to react to the situation. Take a break. If it’s a customer, tell them you’re going to clarify some information with a colleague. If it’s a colleague, simply tell them that you’re taking some time to think about the situation. This is simply a method of keeping calm a la point number 1.
7. Think, Then Respond
This sounds simple. The fact is that as humans we love a good emotional reaction, when really we should be giving a logical response. This may involve taking a deep breath and biting your tongue, or even could be as long as following point number 6.
8. Control the Situation
If you lead the conversation, ask questions and constantly clarify points you can not only gain more information but also gain respect from the other party. Simply, if you explain the details back it shows understanding, but also gives you time to formulate a response. You can also use body language to control a situation, by remaining neutral and ensuring you aren’t aggressive, and make sure you’re on the same eye level as your conflict comrade.
Once again, sounds simple, but a good explanation goes a long way. Not an excuse or passing the buck, but a good explanation of where you stand on the particular matter.
10. Emotions – Don’t Let Them Get to You
Sometimes you can’t take a time out, and somebody could be shouting in your face getting aggressive, but here the hardest skill is to not let yourself get upset or angry. You have to remain firm, neutral and calm. Don’t take it personally, as it rarely is personal, you may just be the representative affiliated with the greater problem. The easiest way to do this if it’s difficult is to just let the other party vent their frustrations. Listen, but don’t reply, then when you feel ready and composed you can resolve the conflict.