We all have times at work when we have a great idea that we know will work, but for some reason someone else doesn’t like it. Or, maybe we want to confront that person who doesn’t work as hard as they should and you’ve been picking up their slack for months! Whatever the reason, conflict usually hurts productivity. It often turns into baggage that affects future interactions and, even when we try not to affect others, it usually does.
Here are 12 ways to prevent conflict from turning into something negative in your workplace.
1. Don’t play the games. Avoid making assumptions about other people’s intent. Until you are able to verify intent, try to take people’s actions, decisions, and words at face value.
2. Do clarify the issue. Before participating in an actual argument, make sure that the issue that is at the heart of the conflict is openly stated. When this doesn’t occur, people frequently find that they get sidetracked on separate, peripheral issues, sometimes to the point of not solving the original issue.
3. Don’t allow your buttons to be pushed. Prior to being in any conflict situation, know what your hot buttons are and prepare an alternative reaction when they are touched.
4. Do listen. Instead of arguing your points, ask questions to thoroughly understand the other person’s points on the issue and wonder why they believe so passionately in those points.
5. Don’t try to win. Instead of having an agenda to “win” the conflict, make your mission to get to the best possible solution. This mindset aids listening.
6. Do express your emotions. If you are angry, express that you become angry when certain conditions exist. If you become frustrated, excited, saddened, or irate, express which conditions enable you to power up that emotion and why they trigger you.
7. Don’t tear down, do build up. Look for ways to be constructive. If your argument degenerates into simply trying to tear down the other person instead of get the best possible result with their help, then you’ve become the problem.
8. Do take breaks. If you recognize an escalation of emotions, call a break and declare a specific time to resume the argument.
9. Don’t avoid real issues. If there is an issue important to either party and it isn’t dealt with, it won’t go away. Prepare to address the conflict in the most productive way possible.
10. Do know your audience. Understanding the people that work around you help you to be more tolerant and to understand when something that seems like a real issue might not be. For example, there might be someone who, when things are going bad at home tends to take it out on his or her co-workers. Knowing this is the case might allow you to handle the situation differently than you otherwise might.
11. Don’t knee-jerk. When a conflict arises, take a moment to breathe and think about your approach. Don’t just react with emotion that could inadvertently start things out in the wrong way and make matters worse.
12. Do pick your hills to die for. Not every conflict is meant to be a battle. There are issues that whether you get your way or not, in the end, it simply doesn’t make any difference. Sometimes you’ll want to value the relationship more than winning the argument. Be judicious in when you “fight” for your way.
By being smart at conflict, you create more power for yourself. You gain influence instead of force and you’ll find that you gain in the respect of others affecting future interactions for the better.