On the Job

How to resolve a conflict with a co-worker

It’s inevitable: Conflict is going to happen in the workplace. We won’t get along with everyone.

However, we also can’t let tensions bottle up and create stress. According to The American Institute of Stress, “people issues” are the number two cause of workplace stress. Finding a way to effectively deal with workplace conflicts helps you both personally and professionally.

One caveat up front: If your conflict involves a violation of company policy, don’t go it alone. “If your conflict involves a highly sensitive subject such as harassment, discrimination or a hostile work environment, involve your manager or HR,” advises Joyce Lee, senior employee relations consultant for Unum. “Even if the involvement is to make your manager and/or HR aware of the issues and that you plan to try and address it yourself first, those issues require additional support.”

5 ways to manage workplace conflict
While none of us looks forward to dealing with conflict, it’s important to realize that being able to resolve disagreements is an in-demand skill. An increasing number of organizations want to know that employees care capable of handling and managing workplace conflicts without creating drama. Here are five considerations when it comes to resolving a conflict.

1. Know when to “pick battles.” Even when you know you’re right, not everything is worth a confrontation. And you’ll have to decide those moments. There’s a difference between issues that involve safety, security and ethics versus matters that don’t. Sometimes we need to just take a high road and let it go.

2. Remember the goal. If the matter needs to be addressed with another person, before having a conversation, think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you want the person to change his or her mind? Or just listen to what you have to say? Also, think about what you’re willing to do to help.

3. Choose the right moment.
Even though it might make you feel better, don’t try to hurry up and rush this conversation. The goal isn’t to escalate the conflict. Give the person you have a conflict with the respect they deserve.

4. Be prepared to hear your faults. Whether it’s because the other person is defensive or because you’re a contributor to the conflict, get ready to accept your part. Figure out how you’re going to respond. It might make sense to acknowledge your role at the very start of the conversation.

5. End the conversation on a positive note.
You might not resolve the conflict right away, but hopefully you’ve moved in a positive direction. Let the other person know having a good working relationship is important to you.

And if, for whatever reason, you’re apprehensive about confronting the issue or the conversation doesn’t go as planned, Lee reminds us to reach out to others for help.

“If you aren’t comfortable trying to resolve the conflict directly yourself, or if you’ve tried and there was resistance or lack of progress, you can always discuss it with your manager or HR.”

Employees don’t have to lunch together and be best friends to have valuable working relationships. They do need to respect each other – even each other’s differences – and be committed to working in the best interest of the organization.

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