The latest articles to help you maintain mental, physical and spiritual wellness.

5 Ways to Handle Conflict in the Workplace

5 Ways to Handle Conflict in the Workplace

The modern workplace is not always the easiest place to be. The stress of the job role combined with a range of different personalities can cause all kinds of added problems. Office stereotypes and conflicts growing from them have become a running joke. Co-worker stereotypes such as ‘workplace gossips’ and ‘the know-it-all’  as well as age, gender and racial stereotypes are a damaging phenomenon that don’t bring out the best in people. Preconceived stereotypes along with the actual destructive behaviours of a colleague can make your life very hard when at work. When workplace stress or unhappiness is caused or enhanced by another person, here are some steps that you can take to improve your situation.

Is it just an Off Day?

We all do have off days. Times in life where things are difficult or even have just woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Somebody else’s ‘off day’ hitting the office can cause them to be less pleasant to be around. If this is the case, a reactive response the their bad behaviour won’t help matters. Try to exercise some endurance and make sure that they feeling are ok. By trying this approach, even if it as it first ignored, there is a good change that the other person will realise that your aim is to be supportive and not act as a threat to them.

Act Upfront

Sometimes you will be irritated by people and it may appear as though they don’t know what the problem is. This could be because they are actually just not very self aware. If someone has been regularly making comments you feel are inappropriate or behaving in a way that is often annoying, then one way to deal with this is to take them to one side and ask them why. There are two outcomes to this. The person will either act apologetic and it will be clear that they genuinely didn’t realise that there was a problem or else make an excuse or try to counter accuse. Regardless of how they react, they are less likely to attempt their comments or behaviour again as they know you aren’t afraid to pull them up on them.

Different Approaches Matter

All teams do need a mix of different personalities and approaches. Some may not be the easiest for you to get along with, both in a working and personal capacity. When working with someone whose approach is different to yours, naturally there will be styles that will clash. This doesn’t mean that your working relationship has to be dysfunctional. Instead, this could be precisely what a team needs. Using a workplace personality testing tool means that you can understand the causes of these differences in styles and observe closely to try to build rapport and empathy with your colleagues that you otherwise may not understand. Plus, if you are able to read them closely you will be more aware of how you can influence their thinking to be more like yours, in order to collaborate together.

How to Handle Aggression

Aggression can come across differently than to just simple differences in working style and may bother some people more so than others. If an individual is being aggressive verbally or physically and it makes you uncomfortable in any way, it is perfectly acceptable to leave the situation be it by putting the phone down, or walking away from them until all is calm. Try to avoid losing your cool yourself. Make a rational and logic argument as to spur on your discussion. Sometimes an honest and supportive conversation is all it takes to sort out aggressive behaviour. If not, perhaps speak to someone else within the company for help and advice or the HR department.

If Confrontation Must Happen…

Take some prior time out so that you can reflect on the situation and any times that you have behaved in a way that could have been interpreted as badly in the past. Ask yourself what is the best outcome for you, in terms of your career security and progression. How will you accomplish what you want? When it comes to talking, consider you and your colleague as equals regardless of any hierarchy in the company. Do not hold back in asserting yourself as it can lead to positive results. It can also be useful to speak with close friends or family in order to see if they have noticed anything about how you conduct yourself during conflict that your attention might need to be drawn to.

Additional advice would be to persevere. Avoid criticism or blame and offer constructive comments as to what you both can do in order to improve the situation. Begin by pointing out something you think you may agree on, or a shared company goal or values. If the conversation begins promisingly, don’t lose sight of what you actually want. It is important to stay in charge of your purpose and emotions. Likewise, carry on even if the negotiations don’t go well. There is always a solution and nothing is permanent. What seems impossible right now will always feel less daunting at a later date.

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.