Conflict at work often arises out of misunderstandings or differences in expectations, but it can be damaging to your productivity and morale. When you realise that you’re in conflict with someone else, it’s important to resolve the issue as quickly as possible so that it doesn’t affect other people or roles in your company.
Most of the time, when there’s conflict at work, it can be fixed with simple communication or reflection. But when left alone, even small conflicts can become big and unmanageable problems that get in the way of productivity and work performance. Here are fourteen strategies you can use to avoid conflict at work.
Keep negative thoughts to yourself
When you have a negative opinion about something, it’s best to keep it to yourself. Not only will this help avoid conflict, but it will also make you seem more positive and easy to work with.
Of course, there are times when you need to speak up, but in general, it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you’re unsure if what you’re saying is appropriate or not, just bite your tongue! The fewer people know about your opinions, the better!
Especially if they disagree with you. In other words, never assume that others think as you do; they might not even want to hear your thoughts on certain subjects! Be careful about how often you express an opinion (especially one that may cause conflict) and do so only when necessary. After all, nobody likes someone who has an opinion about everything.
Own up to your mistakes
Owning up to your mistakes is an important part of being a professional. When you make a mistake, admit it and take responsibility for fixing it. Other people will respect you for your honesty, and you’ll be able to move on from the mistake more quickly.
And if someone else makes a mistake, remember that pointing out their error isn’t always productive; instead, ask them how they would fix it or what they learned from it.
You’ll not only help them get back on track but also improve your relationship with them. In addition, learn to take criticism well because it’s inevitable! Some people may find fault in your work just because they want to stir up trouble. When this happens, let it go-it’s probably easier than defending yourself.
Know when to listen
If you’re not careful, conflict can easily arise at work. Whether it’s a disagreement with a coworker or a dispute with your boss, it’s important to know how to handle the situation. The first step is to know when to listen.
Listen, not just hear what the other person is saying. Try to understand their point of view and see where they’re coming from. Only then can you start to resolve the issue.
You may have an idea about how to resolve the situation, but there will be no resolution unless you investigate both sides of the argument. Asking questions will help you get to the root of the problem.
Then again, sometimes listening isn’t enough. If your ideas are still met with opposition, try using humour as a way to defuse tension and soften up any hard feelings that may exist. A sense of humour is sure to put people in a better mood!
Learn from past incidents
The first step is to learn from past incidents. If you’ve been involved in a workplace conflict, take some time to reflect on what happened. What were the warning signs? What could you have done differently? How did you contribute to the conflict? Answering these questions can help you prevent future conflicts.
Communication skills are essential for this type of self-reflection. When you look back, try and think about why things went wrong and if there was anything that you should have done differently or communicated better. Finally, when working through a problem with someone else, give them space to speak without interrupting or cutting them off.
Keep a cool head
When faced with conflict at work, it’s important to keep a cool head. This means avoiding any kind of emotional outburst, whether that’s yelling, crying, or even laughing. Instead, take a deep breath and try to stay calm. This is also advice for employees experiencing bullying in the workplace, as this will help them think more clearly and make better decisions.
You may also want to tell the other person what you’re feeling if they ask. For example, I’m feeling angry because someone is spreading the wrong information about me. Talking about your feelings can be an effective way to diffuse the situation.
If it becomes clear that the conflict cannot be resolved at this moment, talk about how you could schedule another time to address it later. Follow these two pro tips:
Be open-minded because when people disagree, one side is frequently correct and the other is incorrect. However, don’t assume which side is right just because someone else says so. Try being open-minded by listening carefully to both sides before deciding on who is right or wrong.
Be Clear About Your Expectations: If you’re working on projects together with others, let them know exactly what your expectations are from them so there are no surprises when you get their end product back.
Don’t accept the benefits of favouritism
Favouritism is an unavoidable phenomenon in the workplace. When it comes to promoting, hiring or giving bonuses, most of the time we can see favouritism in action.
The word “favouritism” is derived from the Latin word “favour” which means to “show kindness to.” But it is not a good thing as it can cause conflicts among employees and affect the work environment.
Many people think that favouritism can be beneficial for companies because it helps them build a better team and get more productivity from their employees. But this is not always true because people who are on the receiving end of favouritism will feel left out and excluded from the team spirit.
Stay away from emotional manipulation
Emotional manipulation can be defined as the use of emotions by one person to gain power over another person or group. It is often used on people who are emotionally vulnerable and can be achieved through various means such as anger, guilt, fear, and shame.
This kind of behaviour should never be tolerated in the workplace because it will create a hostile work environment for everyone involved. It will also make other employees feel like they are being bullied or singled out for something they didn’t do which then leads to stress and anxiety at work.
Beware of personality clashes
Personality clashes are inevitable in any workplace. But you need to be aware of the signs and avoid them if possible. This is because personality clashes can lead to conflicts which can harm your productivity and the productivity of others in your team.
The first step is to identify the personality traits that clash with yours. For example, if you are an introvert, then you should avoid having someone who is very outgoing as a colleague or manager.
Secondly, be aware of how these personalities clash with each other and try to minimise it by not assigning two people with conflicting personalities together on projects or tasks.
Thirdly, make sure that there is room for everyone’s personality type in your workplace and make sure that people are not being pressured into changing their personality types just so they fit into the “team” better.
Acknowledging that people have different opinions
People have different opinions and it is important to acknowledge that. If we are not aware of this, we might end up in a conflict with someone.
The first step is to be aware of your own biases and how they affect your opinions. The second step is to be open-minded and listen to other people’s opinions without judging them. The third step is to find common ground with other people so that you can work together on a project or task.
Setting boundaries with each other
It is important to know your boundaries in order to manage conflict in the workplace. It is not a good idea to take on too much responsibility, as it can lead to stress and frustration.
You should also be aware of the boundaries of others. You should not try to push people into doing things that they are uncomfortable with or that they do not want to do.
Stay on top of your tasks and deadlines
We often forget to do something important or miss out on an important date. This can cause a lot of conflict in the workplace. One way to avoid this is by using planners to keep track of your schedule and tasks. Planners are a great way to stay organised, plan ahead and make sure you don’t forget anything important.
Never carry your personal problems to work
It is very important to maintain a healthy work environment. However, it is not always easy to do so especially when you are carrying your personal problems to work.
Some people bring their personal problems to work because they feel that the office environment will be a safe space for them to share their thoughts and feelings. This may be true for some, but it can also create a toxic atmosphere in the workplace if the person does not have the ability to separate the two spaces.
This is why it is important for people who are feeling overwhelmed with their personal life to take time off from work and focus on themselves before they start coming back and carrying their problems into the workplace.
Trust is not something that can be achieved overnight but it takes time and effort.
The most important thing is to show that you are trustworthy. Showing that you are trustworthy will help you gain the trust of your co-workers, superiors, and clients. It’s also important for people to know what your values are and how they align with their values.
Address conflicts immediately
Conflicts are like a virus. They start small and grow in size as time progresses. This is why it’s better to address the conflict at its initial stage itself, rather than letting it grow and then dealing with it later on.
The best way to deal with conflicts is to be proactive about them. It’s not always possible for us to avoid conflicts, but when we can identify potential conflicts before they happen, then we will be able to take the necessary steps and resolve them much more easily.
Finally, no one wants conflict at work, but it happens. If you find yourself in the middle of a workplace conflict, don’t panic. Empathise and understand your colleague’s point of view without judgement or defensiveness.
Try out different solutions and compromise if needed. Understand that your issues can impact how you respond to others’ behaviour and try not to let them cloud your judgement.
Find someone who is objective and can be an ally for you when difficult situations arise so that they are there as a sounding board or mediator.
Be kind and respectful even when other people aren’t being so kind or respectful to you (or vice versa). Remember that we all have feelings, beliefs, values, and expectations-but we don’t all have the same ones!
About the author
Saranne Segal is a Managing Partner at Segal Conflict Solution. A leading provider of workplace mediation services with twenty-five years of experience as a lawyer. She earned three degrees, including a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and a Masters Degree in Industrial Relations & Human Resources Management.