Workplace relationships can be a mixed bag, particularly because you’re not in charge of who you work with and when. Ideally, you’ll get along with all of your co-workers, but that’s not always the case. Although you don’t have to be friends with everyone at your job, sometimes your relationships can turn sour and lead to conflict. If you’ve never had problems with someone at work before, you may not know how to handle conflict with a co-worker.
While each situation is unique, here are some tips for managing conflict with fellow co-workers.
1. Don’t Share the Conflict With Others
In many cases, workplace conflicts can lead to gossip and misinformation throughout the organization. No matter what happened, it’s crucial to avoid discussing the situation until it’s resolved. If you share information with other co-workers, the conflict could escalate and spread throughout the workplace, with people taking sides or sharing rumors with others.
Even after the conflict is resolved, it’s still important to avoid gossip or share details with those not involved in the situation. It’s virtually impossible to stay objective when you’re in the middle of a conflict, so sharing details means you might inadvertently skew the narrative when talking with others.
2. Alert Your Supervisor as Soon as Possible
Typically, minor conflicts can be resolved person-to-person, but if things escalate, you want to notify your supervisor or manager immediately before they get out of control. This way, you can establish a timeline and ensure a faster resolution.
Waiting to tell your manager can cause problems because the conflict may worsen. Also, the longer you wait, the harder it is to establish what happened and how to resolve it.
3. Try to Find Common Ground
If you are trying to resolve the conflict with your co-worker yourself, one option is to search for common ground. Overall, the goal doesn’t have to be for you to like each other. Instead, what matters is that you can work alongside each other without resorting to future conflicts.
In most workplace situations, common ground may be the job itself or other professional scenarios. Try to avoid getting into each other’s personal lives if possible, as that could complicate the issue or potentially escalate the conflict.
4. Seek Mediation When Necessary
If you can’t talk with your co-worker directly, using a mediator can make it much easier to discuss each side and navigate through the conflict more objectively. Sometimes, your supervisor or manager can mediate the situation, but it may be necessary to seek a third-party mediator. In some instances, you may also have to get legal counsel to protect both yourself and the business.
Mediators can help identify the source of the conflict and come up with solutions that work for everyone involved. They may also help facilitate a legal solution so the situation doesn’t get more complicated or messy.
5. Ask Supervisors About Conflict Resolution Management
Ideally, your company will have a conflict management system in place, allowing you to follow the chain of command and take advantage of the processes already established. If your company doesn’t have a system for conflict resolution, it may be time to suggest implementing one.
While a lack of a comprehensive conflict management system won’t necessarily help you right now, it’s good to mention it so management can work on creating one for the future. Workplace conflicts are bound to happen, regardless of any measures a company puts in place, so it’s imperative to work on finding long-term solutions and best practices to head off any conflicts as soon as they arise.
Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to develop one of these programs, thanks to Resolve Conflict Resolution Training. We can work with management and offer training and certifications so the leadership team is well-suited to addressing issues that may come up.
6. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Depending on the nature of the situation, the conflict can lead to a lot of negative emotions, such as anger, frustration, anxiety, and even depression. However, a big part of conflict resolution is maintaining the right mindset during the entire process. Regardless of how the conflict developed, you are in control of how you approach the situation moving forward.
One tip is to remember that the actions of someone else are often a reflection of their personality and attitude, not yours. For example, some conflicts can arise because people are having a bad day or experiencing stress outside of work. Everyone has a breaking point, and once a person reaches theirs, it doesn’t necessarily matter to who their anger and frustration are directed.
It’s also important to recognize that your role hasn’t changed, even in the midst of a conflict. Maintaining a positive and professional attitude is often the best strategy to mitigate the situation and come to a swift resolution. If a conflict derails your productivity, it could lead to more problems down the road. That said, serious conflict situations may require more recovery time, so don’t push yourself to “get back to work” until you’re ready to do so.
7. Try to Understand Their Perspective
As we mentioned, sometimes conflicts can arise because of issues unrelated to the workplace or even the people involved. While everyone may try to maintain professionalism at work and leave their personal issues at the door, rarely does that work in practice. So, it’s best to look deeper beyond what transpired and try to imagine what the other person is going through.
It’s also imperative to recognize that understanding someone doesn’t necessarily mean being sympathetic to them. If someone is rude and disrespectful, you don’t have to shrug it off and act like that kind of behavior is okay. Instead, understanding their perspective can help you recognize the best path forward for conflict resolution.
For example, if the conflict was a result of personal issues entering the workplace, you may be able to come to an amicable solution if the other person apologizes and maybe even takes sensitivity training. You may also be more willing to accept limited interactions in the future once you recognize the source of the problem and realize how it’s being addressed.
8. Keep an Open Mind When Discussing the Conflict and Its Resolution
Everyone is the hero of their own story, and it can often be hard to get outside of your mind and see yourself from another perspective. Having an open mind is essential when dealing with conflict resolution because the causes and details of an incident are rarely so cut and dry. Both parties may be responsible for what happened, either directly or indirectly.
So, when discussing the conflict with the other person and/or a mediator, it’s essential to maintain as much objectivity as possible. For example, perhaps your actions added stress or escalated the situation without you realizing it. Or, perhaps previous encounters with the other person were not as neutral or positive as you may remember them.
Everyone has personal biases, so you have to recognize that conflict resolution isn’t about making everyone happy. Instead, it’s about creating a safe and positive environment for everyone involved so that the organization can keep running smoothly. You don’t have to be friends with the other party, but you should also not be antagonists. You’re both there to work and perform specific duties, so the goal is to ensure you can continue that work without disruption.
9. Determine Your Long-Term Conflict Resolution Goals
Realistically, there will be at least three viewpoints on a conflict and its resolution. One point from each involved party and another, more objective viewpoint from a mediator or manager. Ideally, each of these viewpoints would be identical, meaning that everyone can agree on a swift resolution.
Unfortunately, there are often conflicting perspectives, which can make resolution more challenging. In some cases, outcomes may even be mutually exclusive, so managers have to come up with creative or difficult decisions to work through these obstacles.
For yourself, it’s imperative to know what your primary goal is and voice that goal with a mediator or manager. For example, your goal may be to avoid contact with the other person as much as possible. Another goal could be to limit interactions to work-related discussions only and not bring personal details into workplace situations.
You should also figure out what your flexibility is regarding conflict resolution. Can you work with this person in the future, or does it have to be an either/or situation? If you can work with this person, what would make it easier for you to avoid conflict later on? Also, what happens if another similar conflict does arise?
Overall, it’s critical to understand that conflict resolution is not a binary situation. Just because an individual conflict was resolved doesn’t mean the underlying issues are also in check. It’s important to consider both immediate and long-term goals and determine the best course of action for yourself.
Resolve offers comprehensive conflict resolution training so that when these situations arise, they can be handled quickly and effectively. Contact us today to set up a consultation!