Even if you work with the most wonderful coworkers on earth, there is bound to be occasional conflict in the workplace. This is normal and expected. What can be harmful is how it is (or isn’t) handled. In fact, if you don’t handle conflict constructively, or in a timely manner, you could find yourself looking for a new job. No manager wants to spend all their time trying to resolve conflict between his or her employees, so make sure that your ability to self-regulate and resolve conflict in a timely and effective manner is up to par. The days are gone when all an employee had to do was be good at their job – now an employee needs to be talented in their line of work and also have people skills and the ability to get along well with others. These “soft skills” give you a major advantage in your industry, no matter what it may be.
The Five Best Ways To Resolve Conflicts With Coworkers
- Address problems in a timely fashion
- Take the problem directly to the person involved, not to others
- Listen to understand, not to respond
- Empathize with your coworker’s point of view
- Try to come up with a solution that addresses both of your best interests
As soon as you are aware there is a problem, resentment, or breakdown in communication, address the issue. Allowing it to fester will only allow the situation to get worse and worse as resentment builds. Send a friendly email and say “Hey, can we meet for lunch? I’d like to talk and clear up any misunderstandings.” Be the one to take the initiative and make the first move.
Don’t take the problem to your boss (he or she will view you as incapable of taking care of your own problems, and instead causing problems) and don’t take it to other co-workers (which will make you look like a gossip.) Unless it is a serious sexual harassment type issue or similar, don’t take it to Human Resources either (which makes you look like a tattletale). Human Resources should be utilized when you’ve tried other options and attempted to work on the problem yourself.
When you talk to your coworker, really listen to what they are saying. Don’t spend the entire time they are speaking formulating a response in your head and planning an argument – this makes you miss out on valuable information they are trying to convey. Let them know you are listening by clarifying things they say. If they say things you agree with, nod and make eye contact. This will show that you are attempting to find common ground.
Try to see things from your coworker’s point of view. Even if you think they are 100% in the wrong, try to view the situation from their perspective and imagine how you may feel if you viewed the matter like they do. Pause, and take a moment to reflect on that.
Communicate to your coworker that you think the best approach is to try to come up with a solution that you both can live with. You can even agree that you don’t have to be the best of friends, but that it’s important that you respect each other at work and respect professional boundaries. You both should leave the meeting feeling a little lighter, even if the issue is not entirely resolved. The goal is to become a better communicator and team player, not to always get the things you want. Your maturity and ability to handle conflict with grace will make you a standout in your field, and you will soon have others coming to you for advice about how to handle tricking co-working situations. That is the material future supervisors are made of!
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