Five Strategies for Managing the Challenge of Conflict at Work

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Do you ever find yourself at odds with a co-worker or team member? Have you tried to resolve the issue yourself but find the tension never seems to get better?

Everyone wants to be happy in their job and enjoy going to work. But then someone may get under your skin and bring out the worst in you. That situation, along with any personal conflict, can be managed. But it will take the effort of both parties and should it not occur the entire team may be adversely affected.

Being a responsible employee does not mean you must like everyone; however, you should do your part to get along – even if you have to grit your teeth. The workplace personality you develop and maintain will be reflected in your performance and determine how well you are able to function in a team. If you find that your personality collides with another there are strategies you can use to address it.

A Productive Work Environment

It would be fairly safe to say that most people want to go into a work setting that is full of energy, where everyone is working at their peak capacity, and everyone is getting along with each other. There are many benefits to working in this type of environment.

Employees that view you themselves as part of a team will find that there is a sense of working together and they are easily collaborating with each other when needed.

In this setting there will likely be fewer sick days taken and employees will be focused on the business goals. Unfortunately those workplace settings are rarely found – especially a productive environment that can be sustained for the long run.

Inevitably there are going to be employees you have disagreements, experience conflict, or just do not get along with each other. When that happens it can drag the entire team down and cause a decline in morale.

Understanding Personalities

A hiring manager, or someone else in a position of hiring new employees, can choose someone based upon their skills, experience, and presentation during in an interview. They may develop a sense or gut feeling about this new employee. But what they may not be able to predict is their workplace personality as job candidates are often on their best behavior.

New employees have to learn to fit in and it can take time for their personalities to mesh well with each other, and that is certainly understandable. There may likely be bumps along the way as they learn to fit in. But over time everyone reveals their work personality.

There are many different types and it may even be situational and nature, where an employee can function well with others until there is a conflict, disagreement, or any other disruption.

There are other factors that influence personalities and include being competitive, feeling jealous or resentful, or other experiencing other emotional reactions.

Getting Along with Others

When employees are first hired there is an expectation, one that is usually implied, that they will merge well into their team and get along with others. This behavior will usually occur at first and then change over time, with or without a specific moment of conflict.

Being able to work well with others takes practice, just as any other type of relationship will. You can’t always expect to get along with everyone at all times. The key to maintaining productive working relationships is knowing what to do when they are disagreements. Of course, it is possible that some personalities will just not mix well together and forced compliance is the only answer.

But it is possible to still communicate in a respectful manner – for the benefit of the team. To do so requires a concerted effort by all employees. If this approach does not work it may be necessary to bring in a manager to act as a referee.

Five Strategies for Managing the Challenge of Conflict at Work

#1 – Always Contribute to a Healthy Working Relationship

Workplace relationships need the cooperation of all team members and that includes you. Don’t wait for perfect conditions to do your part. You will be held accountable for your involvement with the team and when conflict should occur, be the one who steps in to resolve it.

#2 – Dedicate Time and Effort to Establish Credibility

Team members may not fully know who you are or what you are capable of and they may base their perception of you on limited interactions. Make sure you demonstrate credibility in all of your interactions. If you have a conflict you will gain better results if you are viewed as someone who is credible.

#3 – Control and Manage Your Emotions

How you feel about your team, or anyone in particular, can influence how you work. Negative emotions can become toxic over time. It is helpful to learn to work in a professional manner and manage your emotions or at least keep them in check. You will find this is especially true when personalities are not always in agreement with each other and a dispute or disagreement occurs.

#4 – Work for Your Team and the Team’s Best Interests

As you do your job, remember that your actions influence how you perform and will have an impact on your team. Even if you do not see the significance of your involvement you are still part of the team. Learning to become part of a team is learning to get along with others so conflict does not interrupt its performance.

#5 – When All Else Fails, Call in a Mediator

If you have done your part to get along, cooperate with others, and maintain professionalism, and conflict still occurs – it is time to determine your options. If the conflict remains at an impasse or has gone on for too long it may become time to find a mediator and do so by following the required chain of command.

Consider the Impact of Your Disposition

Working conditions are rarely likely to be stable and predictable. There are going to be changes that occur, from exiting employees to new hires, along with changes in organizational policies and job procedures. While circumstances may fluctuate your disposition needs to remain stable. This will influence your personality and how others perceive you. 

The more evenly you manage your emotions, the less conflict you are likely to experience. But despite your best attempts, conflict may still occur. How it affects you depends upon how you have conditioned yourself to react and respond to these types of situations.

The more evenly you manage your emotions, the less conflict you are likely to experience. But despite your best attempts, conflict may still occur. How it affects you depends upon how you have conditioned yourself to react and respond to these types of situations.

A change in a person’s demeanor can influence their personality and that change may adversely affect how they get along with others on the job. It is inevitable that some personalities will not mesh well with each other and at all times. If there are moments of disagreement it needs to be addressed and not ignored with the hope that it will go away or not happen again.

Handling the conflict will go more smoothly if you have been proactively doing your best to act in a professional manner and establish your credibility. Conflict may not be easy to address but it can be certainly managed with the right approach.

You are the one in control of your disposition, reactions, thoughts, and actions. If you decide the best interest of the team is always a priority, you will find that personal differences become easier to work out in the long-run. You are not at work to win a personality contest. You are there to contribute to the success of a business or organization.

How you perform your work is a reflection of your personal and professional values. Make a decision today that you are going to maintain a rational, not emotional, disposition for the benefit of your career. With this attitude and mindset, you are going to find your working relationships prosper and your career opportunities increase.

Bruce A. Johnson, Ph.D., MBA

Dr. J Available Now: Academic Leader Specializes in Faculty Development, Distance Learning, Higher Ed, & Adult Education

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