Navigating Workplace Conflicts

Work conflicts happen at every type of workplace.  Some people are comfortable diving right into a difficult situation while others will try to avoid them.  Avoiding conflict will not make it go away. No matter what your personality type, learning how to deal with conflict is a skill that can lead to better working relationships. Every conflict and resolution can provide opportunities for learning for all that are involved.

The following are common types of workplace conflicts and some tips to help resolve them:

Lack of Communication

Many conflicts happen because of poor communication or a difference in communication styles.  If communication is not clear and concise, messages can be misinterpreted and assumptions can be made. It could lead to a lot of misunderstanding. Good listening skills are equally important. Active listening helps one gain a better understanding of people and situations. It helps to look at things from different perspectives. Consider the communication preference of colleagues. If someone prefers email, use that to reach them instead of a phone call.

Unclear Job Expectations

If job expectations are not clear, it can lead to a lot of tension.  You could end up working on tasks that are not part of your job. Managers should be clear about roles, responsibilities, and duties for their team. This will avoid frustration that often leads to conflict. Job descriptions can be incomplete and not cover everything. Talk to your manager if you are unsure about what you should be working on and clarify all of your job duties.

Personality Differences

Every workplace has people with different backgrounds, life experiences, temperaments, and beliefs. It isn’t necessary to be friends with everyone, but it is important to be respectful and civil towards one another. If there is a conflict with someone, you can’t control the personality of another person but you can control how you react. Don’t respond immediately if a person is irritating you. Situations can escalate when emotions are high. Take the time to calm down and plan to talk to the person before it gets worse. Focus on their behavior and not their personality. If you have tried everything to resolve the situation and nothing has worked, talk to your supervisor.  A manager can listen to both sides, de-escalate the tension and help set the tone for healthy work relationships.

Work Styles

One employee will finish a task quickly while another focuses on details and will take more time to complete their work. Some employees prefer working alone, and others want to work as part of a team. Every workplace has planners and those that wait until the last minute to start a project. Clashing work styles can be a common source of conflict. It is important to understand each other’s approach to work.  Talk with your colleagues. You can prefer a different work style but great ideas can come from collaboration. 

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