5 Tips on Handling a Workplace Conflict
Five Tips on Handling a Workplace Conflict
When I began my career as a manager, I believed that if I did my job well enough, took care of problems efficiently and was “nice” to my staff, I would never have to deal with conflict. It didn’t take long (a week?) to learn how wrong I was.
I hadn’t had time to unpack my boxes and hang pictures when my first issue of conflict arrived at my door. I remember feeling so unprepared – what do I do? How do I handle this and can I do something (anything!) so it doesn’t happen again?
Luckily I had a very wise manager of my own. When I brought the issue to her, she helped me deal with it and provided some tips on handling these prickly situations. Over the years we worked on many projects and I learned at the hand of an expert how to effectively handle conflict in the workplace.
Here are the 5 tips she gave me that I use to this day:
- It’s a good thing: Really! It means there is a problem that needs attention and you’ll be able to improve the situation – I promise!
- Explore: Conflict doesn’t have to be fixed instantly and there is no magic “right” answer. Explore the issue by:
- Asking questions
- Allow for silences as people think things through
- Reflect their responses back to them and ask follow-up questions
- If you think you know the answer, stop yourself!
- Don’t assume you know the answer.
- Sometimes the best thing you can do when emotions are high and people are upset is to listen (see #2 above).
- By allowing people to talk it out, you may learn something new that may help with a solution.
- Allowing for discussion may help defuse the situation and help everyone come up with ideas to overcome the problem.
- Evaluate: Once a solution has been decided on, be sure to check in and assess the results. It’s easy to just move on and assume the problem is taken care of the first time. You may even avoid future conflicts this way!
- Ask the experts: of course, work with your HR experts through any of these steps. They deal with these issues all the time (doesn’t that sound like fun) and have the expertise to help you through it in your organization. In fact, checking in with them before it becomes a “3 alarm fire” can help diffuse issues early.