Getting through a day’s work can feel hard enough sometimes with faulty photocopiers, computer malfunctions, stressful moments and more without having a row with one of your colleagues, but in the melting pot of so many different people it can also seem unavoidable. No matter what has caused the disagreement, there are ways to fix it before it gets out of hand. Want to know how to make things run a little smoother? Here are our top tips on how to resolve conflict at work.
Choose your battles
Even if you’re the most easily annoyed person on the planet and the thought of someone so much as borrowing your stapler makes your blood boil you should to stop and think. If someone has done something to annoy you the worst response you could have is to explode in a fiery inferno at them and risk saying or doing something you later regret.
Take a minute and weigh up how important the issue is in the scheme of things. Will it be a minor annoyance for 5 minutes, will it grate on you for an hour or will it affect your work for the rest of the day/week? If the problem matches the latter cause then it’s worth exploring, but for minor mistakes or miscommunications it might be better to forgive and forget.
To assume makes an ass out of u and me
If you’ve ever had a colleague come to you with steam pouring from their ears about another co-worker or even if you think a colleague has done something to intentionally annoy you but you didn’t see it happen, don’t make assumptions. As Phil Collins famously said ‘we always need to hear both sides of the story’ and if you’re only hearing one side you can’t make a fair assessment, offer advice to your friend or even resolve your own conflicts.
If it’s someone else coming to you to complain don’t just take their word as gospel that Sarah in HR is ‘the worst person ever,’ because ‘she definitely used my coffee cup and then put it back in a weird place.’ First of all you should decide if this is really worth getting involved in. If it’s not going to affect you you don’t want to whisper about other colleagues and cause more tensions to arise, and if it’s a minor issue anyway you should probably steer clear of adding to the drama. For more serious issues that you think you have to get involved with to an extent or if it’s an issue you have about someone else, you need to get as much information as you can before you go picking fights.
Maybe another colleague can shed some clarity on the situation and saw that the person they thought stole their mug actually wasn’t in the room and are being falsely accused, or maybe the colleague you think is talking about you behind your back is actually only engaging in casual chit-chat rather than gossip.
Open your ears, open your mind
If a conflict does reach a point where it needs to be addressed face to face then be sure to go into it when you’re not feeling angry and to actually listen to what the other person has to say. It could be a simple misunderstanding but if you interrupt them or just command the conversation about why you are unhappy you could make the situation much worse. Don’t make the conversation that’s about to happen seem like a personal attack – keep it in a professional context by thanking them for meeting you to talk about it and starting off casual so it doesn’t seem like a formal arrangement.
Try to be as pleasant about it as possible, even if the other person becomes snide or stubborn. It may be difficult but at least then you will be acting the most maturely and if you need to take proceedings further with management you can say with a clear conscience that you were nothing but civil and polite and gave them free space to express their opinions on the issue.
Where do we go from here?
Depending on how the previous conversation has just gone you can now decide on the final steps. If the other person agreed with what you had to say and things came to a natural and friendly conclusion without any hard feelings then you can choose to put it to rest and move onto another topic. Or if unfortunately they disagreed to a strong extent and felt like there was still a problem to be solved, or became aggressive about the issue you can raise it with more a more senior staff member.
Not only will they be able to mediate and make suggestions about how to fix things, but in the case of serious issues or aforementioned unwarranted behaviour they can reprimand the other party if need be.
When you do resolve things, just remember that in life you won’t agree with everyone, but it would be boring if you did. With your new conflict-resolution skills you’ll be prepared to solve any social skirmishes and make every day a breeze. Want to see more tips on everything from boosting your communication skills to how to solve common workplace worries? Check out our bi-weekly blog which is packed with great advice!