Resolving conflict at work can be difficult at the best of times. Here are tips to help you move forward, and some actions to avoid.

Charmaine Hammond is a Conflict Resolution and Workplace Consultant with MyWorkplaceHealth. She has developed hundreds of Conflict Resolution and Training programs for corporations, government, educational institutions and associations. As a consultant she also worked with her corporate clients on developing policies and procedures around conflict management and workplace violence prevention. Charmaine turns communication breakdowns into communication breakthroughs and helps teams work better together!

It doesn’t take much for conflict to get ugly, become positional, and turn personal.

Conflict in the workplace happens. Conflict is a part of workplace relationships and how teams function, and it’s not good or bad. Conflict is simply a difference… difference in opinion, needs, goals, perceptions, values and beliefs. It is how people handle conflict that makes it feel “negative” or “bad.” Not everyone comes to their role with advanced communication and conflict resolution skills. Many people have had negative experiences when dealing with conflict. Resolving conflict at work can be difficult at the best of times but there are some things that help, and some actions to avoid.

Actions to Avoid

Bringing up the past, unresolved issues, blame, accusations, sarcasm, and “verbal jabs” are all examples of behaviours that can turn a conversation into a confrontation. It’s in this moment when it doesn’t feel like you have a choice, that you must actually exercise careful choice around how you respond which includes your verbal, emotional and nonverbal response. These really are those “moment of truth” times. A subtle sigh or eyeball can increase the intensity of the conflict in seconds.

How to Better Resolve Conflict

Conflict resolution requires that we be:

  • Present
  • Focused
  • Willing to hear a perspective that is different from our own
  • Interested in resolving the issue

While we cannot control how other people respond or react in stressful times, what we can control is how we respond or react. After having facilitated the resolution of hundreds of highly charged and complex conflicts when I was a mediator, I found that one of the most difficult choices is to resist the urge to “push back” and to being drawn into the other person’s reaction or drama.

The next time you are in a disagreement, difficult conversation or resolving a conflict, practice what I call the three second rule. Simply count to three in your head before verbally or nonverbally reacting. This simple process could be the most powerful tool in maintaining your dignity, presence and reputation. Maya Angelou said something to the effect of “people will remember not what you said, but how you made them feel.” Words may fade as time goes on; however, the impact of a conversation can stay with someone (and you) for a long time.

Make sure the impact you create is the type of impact you want to leave.

To learn more about the conflict resolution training Charmaine offers or about other MyWorkplaceHealth service offerings, get in touch!