Conflict Management may be a source of uneasiness in human relationships in the workplace. Conflicts often arise in the workplace between co-workers, as well as between employees and managers. At the workplace, disagreements are common occurrences. Often, managers may pull out the card of rank on employees especially when the managers are the individuals at fault. The use of demeaning language as well by either party could sabotage the peace in relations at work. Furthermore, we must note that every individual is very likely to suffer a character problem. This issue still circles the way uncouth and ill-mannered persons would communicate with one another.
It is a fact that difficult people exist in every workplace. Difficult people come in every variety and no workplace is without them. Dealing with difficult people is much tougher when they are attacking you or undermining your professional contribution. Although true friendships can and do arise from work-place relationships all the time, many worker-to-worker relationships can never become “personal.” The quality of workspace relationships depends on the quality, style and dynamics of the communication between the two individuals. Experts agree that most workplace interpersonal conflicts arise mostly because of differences in communication styles, particularly where their jobs are interactive and interdependent. When motives and interests run with the aim of unhealthy competitiveness, there is a high risk of generating negative energy, translating into relationship issues.
For many people who are unable to navigate situations of disagreements, they do everything in their power to totally avoid them. I believe it is because the idea of disagreements has been shrouded in a very horrid picture. When people have disagreements, they tend to argue, raise their voice, use disrespectful words and cross the line on many fronts. And especially in the workplace where such behavior is not tolerated, many people have turned into “yes people”, holding back honest feedback, ideas and opinions on matters.
Discussions on the things we disagree on at the workplace should be welcomed and encouraged. If we as leaders, managers and employees can foster a healthy environment to debate our thoughts respectfully, we will see growth. According to one Survey Monkey study, only 58 percent of women and 68 percent of men said they felt they could express a dissenting opinion at work without negative consequences. That’s a lot of missed opportunity for potential growth.
The main focus of any type of communication, whether it is in agreement or in disagreement on a matter is how that communication is exchanged. Nearly a year ago, I took in a young lady as an intern. On her first day at work, she walked in with a crumpled shirt and messy looking hair. I was very shocked to see someone who had apparently followed me so closely on social media turn up in such a disheveled state. We were to attend a meeting together but I certainly could not take her along with me. I was quite upset but I decided to address the situation after I returned. When I returned to my office, I called her in and asked her to sit down. The first thing that popped in my head was to ask her harshly why she turned up looking so messy. But I calmed down, then asked her, “How are you?” I immediately saw the look of surprise on her face. She was indeed expecting to be yelled at and scolded but the calmness in my voice took her by surprise. She explained that she was unable to prepare the night before and after taking on so many chores in the morning, she felt she had no choice but to grab the first item of clothing she saw and rush to work. Of course, none of it made sense to me. I was taken aback by how boldly she continued to tell this tale of an excuse. Even as I tried to explain to her that she was wrong, she took a very defensive stance. But eventually she learnt her first lesson about disagreements.
1. Be mindful of your focus. She was so focused on saving her image and not feeling attacked that she lost sight of the lesson. Even though she knew she was wrong, she had given herself enough excuses to justify her actions. Several studies have shown that people tend to give more attention to negative information over positive news. Stuart Soroka, Collegiate Professor of Communication Studies and Political Science at the University of Michigan suggests that humans may be neurologically or physiologically predisposed towards focusing on negative information because the potential costs of negative information far outweigh the potential benefits of positive information.
Tony Robbins in his Ultimate Relationship Guide writes on why it is important to first examine our focus when we find ourselves in conflict. “A conflict becomes harmful when you are focused on defending yourself from attack rather than on solving the problem. By focusing on your pain and suffering, you are ensuring you’ll experience more of the same, because where focus goes, energy flows.” By changing our focus, we can change the result. The reason I confronted the intern was not to attack her and make her feel worthless. My main goal was to point out the mistake, help her acknowledge it, and then correct her. On her end, her duty was to accept that she had taken a few wrong decisions and to find ways to organize her time to prevent future occurrences of the similar nature.
When we are in disagreeing situations, the last thing on our minds is to listen to what the person has to say. We are eager to say what is on our mind and rushing to do so leads us to say what we want to in the most disrespectful way. The key is to listen with intention. How do you feel when your supervisor criticizes work you spent hours to complete? Do you feel differently based on the tone of voice and the choice of words he uses in his communication? Effective communication goes both ways. Both parties must listen to what each other have to say. They must also be careful and intentional about how they communicate their point of view. To listen properly, VeryWell mind recommends that you do not interrupt when the other person is speaking. Don’t get defensive. Just hear them and reflect back what they’re saying so they know you’ve heard. Then you’ll understand them better and they’ll be more willing to listen to you.
3. When it is your turn to speak, COMMUNICATE.
What you communicate and how you communicate it makes all the difference about whether you will get to a resolution. Everything in every conversation has to do with what you do not say. People read people. When people meet people, they stop reading about them and start reading them. The body language must land an experience that the person can never forget. Aim to not just make a moment but to make a memory. Research has shown that for long-term client engagement experiences, the concept of the body language is key. The entire tool package of communication must be incorporated into the conversation i.e. not just body language, but verbal communication and deliberate engagement. These three hooks help to latch you onto your client and make a lasting memory.
Some people react by relying on bad habits and creating a wider rift. Others also use the conflict as an opportunity to communicate their feelings and grow their relationship. You can decide the outcome of the conflict based on how you communicate. VeryWell Mind speaks about compromise. Sometimes the outcome should not be to win the argument. It can be about looking for solutions that meet everybody’s needs. “Either through compromise or a new creative solution that gives you both what you want most, this focus is much more effective than one person getting what they want at the other’s expense. Healthy communication involves finding a resolution that both sides can be happy with.”
4. What you do after matters
Emotional connections do not end with the physical or visual meeting. It does not matter whether it is a social conversation, business conversation or a selling conversation. What drives the emotions of a person are their needs. So, you must continue to spend time in understanding the needs of the person after you have met them. Your goal should be to bring value through nurturing the person’s needs to exceed expectations and making sure they feel your effort to nurture their needs.
When dealing with people, a little bit of everything is needed; from patience, to emotional intelligence, compromise, self awareness and knowledge of the person you are dealing with. Be intentional and intelligent. Once we acknowledge that disagreements are normal occurrences between people, we will gradually finds ways to navigate such situations. Conflicts and disagreements can be turn around for growth. We simply need to put in the required work and save our relationships.