Are you a person that likes or avoids conflict at work?

Conflict at work is a given. Some people enjoy a good debate and discussion with colleagues while others would prefer not to have or be involved with this type of interaction and to avoid disagreements. No matter what these happen at work. So what should you do?

First, you need to realize that conflict at work is a fact of life. There are real costs for conflict at work. You also have to look at yourself and determine which camp do you see yourself in? Are you a person that likes a lively debate or are you a person that would just like everyone to get along? Do you or the other person go beyond the lively debate and sometimes bully the other person? This can be a high conflict person. Might you or the other person be open to the lively debate or just want everyone to just get along and avoid the conflict change depending on who you are having the conflict with or what the conflict is about? However, when it comes right down to it, we tend to be overall in one camp or the other. We also may change over time. At different stages in our lives we may be more prone to one approach or the other. If you are having a lot of problems outside of work right now (health, spouse, divorce, money, children etc.) you may not be or the other party may not be as receptive. Keep that in mind.

Second you have to take a good look at yourself and determine which camp you are in deep down. Knowing this you can realize what approach you are most prone to and work to develop skills to be more receptive to another not in your camp. Think about it. There are always going to be competing interests and personalities that don’t get along, limited resources in terms of time, money, people and facilities, and we all come with our own egos.

There may be a shared vision overall, but how we achieve that vision may have a host of options governed by many different personal interests. These may be financial, power oriented, short term oriented, long term oriented, employee oriented, evaluation oriented, customer oriented, other stakeholder oriented, socially oriented and/or environmentally oriented. Take a clear look at your motives and try to determine your motives and the motives of the other party. We very likely may not see a clear approach to any conflict in the same way given all of the competing interests we and the other party has.

Third, we have to truly focus on the problem. Using our reptilian brain we tend to want to fight, flight or freeze when confronted with conflict. We need to control our reptilian brain with our prefrontal cortex and work to remain professional and positive even when faced with a difficult situation. One way to help calm our brain is through the practice of mindfulness. By remaining calm and focusing on the problem this will help us and the other party remain productive. It is important that we address the problem and improve the relationship going forward.

Back to whether you like the lively debate or prefer to avoid conflict. Determine where you stand relative to this issue and the parties involved. Label your feelings.  This is important for it is a first step at self-identification relative to where you are starting from. Identify why you are having this disagreement. Now explore what approaches might work best in the current situation. If you do decide to address the current conflict, determine what approaches might be best to approach. If you continue to do what you have always done and expect different results you are fooling yourself. Reach out to others for advice. Do some reading on conflict resolution. Do some internet research on this topic.

You need to prepare for and address the area of conflict. As a leader you cannot simply avoid it. Others are watching. If you do not address the situation, this will undermine your leadership with others. In the end you need to manage your own emotions and help your counterpart manage their emotions. I refer to this as the Art of De-escalation in chapter two of my book on Peaceful Resolutions. As a speaker, I have been asked to address this many times. It is a major issue in our society today. You need to de-escalate yourself and help the other party to de-escalate. It is important to work together to develop a relationship, listen and jointly find a way to resolve the conflict. You also need to know when to walk away and when to raise an issue in management.

In summary, conflict at work is a fact of life. You have to decide if you like the lively debate or prefer to avoid the conflict. Explore why and label your feelings. Develop an approach that will work for you to work with your counterpart given their approach to this issue and their style. Be hard on the problem and soft on the people. Focus on the problem. Taking these types of actions can help you and the other party to address conflict at work.

Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA is an international speaker, that helps organization resolve conflict and negotiate winning solutions. Mike is dedicated to making individuals, organizations, thought-leading entrepreneurs and executives more successful. Michael’s books, including The Servant Manager, How to Work with the IRS, Second Edition and his most recent book, now also available as an eBook and hard copy, Peaceful Resolutions are available at this link.  On point resources are available online at www.mikegreg.com and check out the blog. Contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com or call (651) 633-5311. 

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]