Handling Workplace Conflict…No Easy Way Out!

May 7, 2010


How much is conflict costing your organization, department, team, relationship, and family? What happens when conflict isn’t resolved?

Unresolved conflict in the workplace results in….Loss in sleep, absenteeism, loss of productivity, strained relationships, stress and frustration and anxiety, sick leave, and sometimes workplace violence.

Like taxes, conflict in the workplace is inevitable. This isn’t all bad. Handled well, conflict can strengthen communication, spark new ideas and generate new levels of performance. Handled poorly, however, workplace conflict can damage important relationships and drag down productivity. In fact, many agree that the ability to manage conflicts can make or break a career. Take this Self-Quiz to discover how well you handle conflict in the workplace.

 True or False

1. If the conflict is escalating, I offer to set the subject aside and address it later, possibly in a separate meeting.

2. Defining the problem—and making sure that everyone agrees on this definition—sets me well on the way to solving the problem.

 3. I avoid attacking or criticizing, and I control my language. It doesn’t help any situation to be offensive or raise people’s defenses.

 4. Because good decisions are sometimes reached when everyone gives a little, I keep myself flexible and open to compromise.

 5. I do all I can to NOT get defensive. I listen to what others have to say and honestly evaluate whether their opinions might be valid.

 6. In any conflict, I keep my focus on a positive, solution-based outcome in which all can win.

 7. Even if it feels uncomfortable, I look the other person in the eye, showing respect for that person and for myself.

 8. I try to listen to and understand the feelings and needs beneath the spoken statements of others.

 9. My attention and activities are focused on what I can influence and control, and how I can make a difference.

 10. I explore with myself how my actions might have contributed to the conflict situation.

 11. Taking a bigger view is often all it takes to resolve for myself the smaller problems and irritations.

 12. I recognize that not everyone will live up to my expectations all the time.

 13. Maintaining a sense of humor is an important “tool” in my conflict toolbox.

 14. I work to establish ground rules for how to resolve the conflict.

 15. In conflicts, I take the time to deal with people face-to-face rather than by email. 

 16. I challenge myself and others to be creative about the possibilities for conflict resolution available to us.

 17. I try to deal with regularly occurring conflicts and those that negatively impact my productivity before they escalate to a bigger conflict.

 If you answered true to fewer than 10 questions, you might benefit from learning new communications skills. Please don’t hesitate if you would like to work together to develop these.

Remember, when confronting office conflicts, it’s best to keep the focus on work-related issues, not personality. Doing so can help you keep a cool head—and your career on track. 

 Email me at curtcanada@verizon.net  What’s your story?… Let’s find your Strengths…..Conflict doesn’t have be negative and painful….Take the TKI Conflict Assessment  and a 45 Minute Coaching Feedback session.

 Curt Canada is an Executive, Career, and Leadership Development Coach at FindingYourZenith in Washington DC.    Visit our website at  www.curtcanada.com

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

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2 Responses to “Handling Workplace Conflict…No Easy Way Out!”

  1. Curt Canada Says:

    Thank you so much for your comment and perhaps conflict can be resolved simply by a shift in location of the persons involved.

    I favor your sugggestion that resolving what you can and leaving what you can not alone!

    Time also has a way of bringing about change in what might be perceived as conflictual.

  2. Cynthia Says:

    Good insights!

    I have learned, though, that sometimes the conflict is plain old-fashioned “personality conflict,” and the best solution is for someone to move to another part of the office! 🙂

    The trick is being able to discern what can be resolved and what probably can’t. Sometimes avoidance is a good thing.


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