How to avoid conflict in the workplace

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Arguments or tension in the workplace can turn the office into a very difficult place to be, especially if the conflict is with close colleagues or employers.

Not only does conflict cloud the office atmosphere, but resolving confrontations can be time-consuming for both employees and managers so it’s important to catch the argument in the early stages using effective strategies.

Right time, right place

If there is tension with a colleague, choose a certain time and place where you can have a civilised conversation with them about the issue.

This will ensure that when it comes to seeking a resolution, it is not tarnished by built up resentment on both sides. This will also prevent colleagues becoming involved in the confrontation.

Breathe

When you find yourself in a situation that fills you with emotion, get yourself into the practice of taking some deep breaths and counting to ten slowly.

This will allow your conscious mind to kick in and think through the situation and respond more objectively.

Don’t gossip

Gossip is one of the most common and yet destructive pastimes in office environments. It can lead to mistrust, bad feelings and very often anger among colleagues.

If you are invited into gossiping, try to change the subject, let them know that is of no interest to you or politely remove yourself from that situation.

Everyone has something to say

Some people use aggression as a method to silence their ‘opponents’ during conflict. While it might silence one party, they will more likely harbour resentment or lose respect for the other.

During every conflict, it is important to remember that everyone has the right to voice his or her opinions. This ensures a balanced discussion takes place, before you can start looking for a resolution.

Mind your language

In the heat of the moment it is all too easy to use language that attacks the other person on a personal level.

By doing this, recognise that it cannot lead to a healthy debate and is much more likely to put the other person in a defensive state.

It can also lead to further confrontation. Instead, use professional, objective language to put forward your views. This will ensure that you come across as calm and there is more a chance of compromise as you move forward.

Theory of mind

Try to understand the other person’s perspective and pay attention to what the other person is saying. You may hear something that gives you a different take on the situation yourself and it might resolve the conflict much quicker.

At the very least, your colleague will note that you are genuinely listening to what they have to say.

Compromise

It’s not about giving up on your ideas but adjusting them so that there is greater likelihood of achieving them in partnership with others.

It can also build and improve your own ideas by including another person’s perspective. If you do not compromise the chances of reaching any resolution are weak at best.

Workplace mediators

Mediators can help both parties talk through the situation in an objective manner. Mediation is not about blame but about enlightenment.

A trained third party hearing the discussion can cut through a lot of the emotional issues that are clouding it and add an impartial perspective to the situation. It helps to bring the conflict to an objective, level playing field.

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