How to manage conflict at work in 5 easy steps

It happens everywhere and we all know the feeling. That first email you receive, the whispering to colleagues, the glares across the office. Even though we all try and avoid it, it’s likely that at some point in our careers we will all experience conflict at work, and what starts as something tiny, sometimes evolves into an issue that is much larger than the original matter due to others getting involved.

That being said, it’s something we all try and avoid and therefore when it comes around it is sometimes difficult to know how to handle it. Our natural reactions are to avoid conflict by ignoring that snarky comments in emails, and the nagging voice in the back of your head telling you to act on it. However, sometimes, and not all, these moments of conflict can hide an opportunity for growth and learning. If you’re in a position of leadership, its even more likely that these moments will appear, and that’s when you need to take it by the horns and make the most of the opportunity, rather than avoiding it! The main thing is to hit it on the head before it gets out of control, and we’ve listed some ways of managing this below:

 

1. Communication

The first step to resolving conflict in the office is to face it head on and ask the other person to speak with you. Give them the opportunity to find a time that suits them and choose a place that suits you both and where there will be no interruptions.

2. Listening

It’s likely your immediate reaction will be more of an emotional one, however it’s important that you put this on the back burner and listen to what the other person has to say. Approach the subject collaboratively and with the aim to come up with a solution, rather than with the aim to win the argument. Avoid interrupting, and if necessary, when the other person has finished speaking, repeat what they’ve said back to them to make sure you have a full understanding of what they are saying. If you’re confused, ask questions politely to try and avoid any further irritations or conflict!

3. Prioritisation

Choose your battles! It’s likely that you won’t agree with everything that’s been said but at work this is something that needs to be sidestepped around! The main thing is, once the areas of conflict have been recognised, to come up with the problem that needs to be resolved most urgently. This may be a matter that evolves around an urgent project, or a personal matter, but whatever the case, talk through how will be best to resolve and move on.

4. Make a plan

Focus on how you’re going to move forward, with emphasis on the fact that you are part of a team and committed to working with each other. Set up future meeting times to continue the discussion, and to work through other points of conflict that you did not prioritize that first time

5. Celebrate and build on your success

As you move on from this, be sure to point out areas where conflict may have previously taken place (obviously within reason), and celebrate it with the other person. Working through differences of opinion can be a very challenging thing and should therefore be celebrated once it’s been achieved. Give each other compliments on insights and achievements. Eventually, your hard work will grow into an ongoing line of communication, and you may just find yourself with a new ally and collaborator where once you saw only an obstacle.