When we face conflict at work it can make it difficult for us to do our job, cause us stress and reduce productivity in the team. From fundamental disagreements about how things should be done to personality clashes and personal differences; given the diverse mix of people in the workplace and sometimes conflicting roles, disagreements and conflict are inevitable.
But is conflict always a bad thing? Too little conflict could be as bad as too much conflict. Where people feel unable to express different views, the status quo will maintain, dominant people will get their way and bad ideas will succeed. Healthy conflict is where people are able to disagree without letting it affect relationships in the long term.
Unhealthy conflict usually involves personal attacks, sustained bad feelings after the disagreement and an inability to work with others who have different views than you. When dealing with disagreements and conflicts it is good to remember that you cannot change other people, you can only change yourself and it takes two people to create a conflict and only one person to end it.
Here are some tips on fostering healthy conflict and avoiding unhealthy conflict:
- Remind yourself that in business there are rarely situations of right and wrong, it is usually just a matter of opinion. Be flexible with those who have different opinions to you.
- The responsibility rests with you to build better relationships with those around you. Consider how you come across to others. Be friendly. Smile. Get to know people.
- Beware how your perceptions, attitudes and stereotypes influence your behaviour towards others. Treat people fairly, assume positive intent and act with curiosity rather than blame.
- Find common ground with people and approach difficult situations with a win-win mentality. You are both on the same team so if someone loses you both lose. Focus on sustaining long-term relationships with others.
- Suspend your beliefs to really listen to what the other person is saying. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself why they think what they think, what is influencing their opinion and what objectives they have.
- When emotions are high most of our meaning is communicated through our tone of voice. Be aware of sounding aggressive, sarcastic or condescending, as this is the meaning that will be communicated and your words will be overlooked.
- And lastly if things get heated and anger is high it is difficult to have a reasonable conversation as anger clouds our judgment and makes logical thinking difficult. Take a break, cool off and re-group later.