Tips to avoid conflict with colleagues

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We will all face conflict at some point in our lives. Dealing with conflicts is never easy and can be particularly difficult in the workplace. Fortunately, there are certain tips and tricks that can help

Conflicts exist at work, at home, and around the world. How you deal with it affects your effectiveness and success at work and in life, as well as your happiness and well-being as a person.

Many people dislike conflict and may find it particularly difficult to deal with when they appear with a colleague because the workplace puts additional pressure to resolve them calmly and quickly. The good news, however, is that there are many techniques you can use to avoid and resolve conflicts.

What is conflict?

Let’s start with the basics. Conflict is essentially a disagreement between two or more people. Conflicts can arise from bad behavior (e.g. bullying, discrimination, harassment, poor performance), misunderstandings (office etiquette, language, politics), differences (in terms of opinion, personality, person, work ethic, ideas) or through ego to jealousy .

There are two types of conflict. One is a real conflict where you know that there are tensions, disagreements and differences with another. The second is what I call imaginary or “anticipatory” conflict. Here you accept, perceive, or fear that conflicts may arise based on your thoughts and feelings before you even discuss them with the other person.

And let’s not forget, language is very important. It affects us immensely (if we think it) and others (if we say it). Notice the difference in your opinion and the impact of “We are in conflict” versus “We disagree” and “We have a misunderstanding”. Reserve conflicts for things that are really that big.

4 tips for avoiding conflict

The way to avoid conflict is to solve frustrations or problems early. The phrase “nip in the bud” is apt. If you notice that you are upset or frustrated, take the time to find out where the problem is and develop a plan to address it (either in yourself or with the other person).

Discuss how to deal with it before it happens

When starting a new job or working with a new person, it is always helpful to review goals and roles to agree expectations, talk about what makes the best of each other, and identify the characteristics that each of Brings you into the working relationship.

Talk about “what if something doesn’t work?” How do we want to address / deal with it? “. By speaking openly about it, it lays a foundation and gives permission to speak about deviations from this plan. You can do this at any time with your boss, colleague, employee or friend.

Listen and ask

Listen to others – both what they say and what they don’t say. Listen to resentments or frustrations with yourself or others to identify them early. Ask open questions (the best questions start with “what”) to find out what people really think and feel. What motivates them, what are their reasons for what they are doing and what is going on for them. Listening actively to understand others can prevent tension because people feel seen and heard, and problems can be broadcast and addressed early on.

Make sure that you give positive feedback and regularly celebrate the success of others so that they know that you value their contributions and not just hear negative things about you.

Share assumptions and their effects

This is a technique I learned in a 10-month leadership course. We constantly make assumptions about people, ideas and situations (this is how our brain works). Our assumptions about others are often wrong when we interpret things through our perspective. If we respond to these false assumptions, it can lead to misunderstandings between you or a negative feeling for you.

If you see someone in a not so nice light, ask yourself, what do I think of him? How does this assumption affect you emotionally and intellectually? What underlying belief might you have? Performing this reflection exercise may reveal some emotional blind spots that you have about yourself.

For example, Joe is not doing his fair share of working on a project. They assume that he is lazy and is based on everyone else’s efforts. That makes you angry and you want to exclude him. The basic idea might be that you feel that others think you are not pulling on your weight and you are not feeling good enough.

Learn how to have “difficult” conversations

Many people hate difficult conversations and therefore avoid them. First, notice the language. If you call it a difficult conversation, it will likely be. So define what the purpose of the conversation really is: develop, align expectations, give feedback, clarify assumptions, work better together.

Secondly, you will learn models and tips to give “negative” feedback and align expectations. Finally, make sure that you regularly give positive feedback and celebrate the success of others (five positive to each negative is the proven relationship – Gottman 2002) so that they know that you value their contributions and not just hear negative things about you.

How to solve conflicts

The solution depends on the situation, the people involved, the severity / duration of the conflict, the legal provisions, etc. However, here are some tips that can be helpful in most situations.

You name it

Confirm that the conflict exists. Name yourself and those involved the elephant in the room. This doesn’t have to be a big announcement. The words could be as simple as: “I feel a certain amount of friction or a lack of alignment between us that I would like to clarify.” Ask about their thoughts and feelings. You might hesitate, so share yours. Say what you would like to do, e.g. B. “I want us to work through this to be happier and more successful colleagues.”

Put the problem between the two of you

Literally. If the conflict is a specific topic or situation, write it down on a piece of paper, sit side by side (this is less confrontational), and place the paper on the table in front of you. This makes the problem more objective outside of you and the relationship and becomes the focus of the solution rather than the fault.

This can also be done virtually by logging into the video conference on a second device and specifying the paper / topic as the “participant” of the device so that you both view it in a third view.

Listening actively to understand others can prevent tension because people feel seen and heard, and problems can be broadcast and addressed early on.

Strive for the “third solution”

Not your solution or its solution. Rather a better, new solution.

I don’t mean compromise. Dig under the surface to identify the underlying needs or motivations of each one of you. Encourage each of you to find alignment rather than agreement. What can you focus on? It can be as basic as agreeing that there is a problem between the two of you, what the worst case scenario is, or what process you both want to follow to find a solution. Brainstorming options or solutions that meet all of your needs.

Let someone support you

Ask a neutral third party for help. This could be a manager, an HR partner or a specialist. Someone looking for a solution between you two instead of judging who is right and who is wrong.

This is the beginning, not the end

This first conversation should be seen as just that, the first in a row. Check in with each other. How are you? You can rate the effectiveness of the solution or process on a scale of 1 to 10. What would it take to increase the rating? Because of the emotional nature of the conflict, you may need smaller, more frequent conversations. Realize that this is more of a trip than a quick fix.

Research shows that organizations with different people, ideas and solutions are more innovative and successful if they are managed well. By definition, diversity means differences. It is not a question of avoiding the crucial differences, but of managing them for optimal engagement and optimal results.

Learn more about Anne on her Directions Coaching website. Anne’s book “Soft Skills Hard Results: A Practical Guide to People Skills for Analytical Leaders” is now available.

Confidence in the workplace is key; This helps you better deal with stress, feedback, and conflict, not to mention understanding the impact you have on others. Read about the benefits of self-confidence in the workplace and how to deal with negative feedback at work in the Life Coach Directory.

If you are faced with conflicts in your working life, you can benefit from a conversation with a coach. A coach can help you understand the problem in a new light and help you come up with a solution. Coaching can have so many advantages and should not only be saved for people in management or leadership positions. Each and every one of us can benefit from additional support.



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