Sometimes, working life can be nervous and exhausting place to be. Bad relationships in the workplace can lead to a real decrease in productivity for a company. When conflicts arise, you need to be a trained manager to bring peace in your workplace.
To improve your relationship with your staff or your superiors, you must learn to rely on the strengths of your personality and have the courage to work on your weakest points.
- How to identify different types of conflicts?
- How to recognize when there is a strategy involved?
- How to get out of the conflict and negotiate a win-win solution?
These are the questions.
Conflicts are not always bad. Provided that it is controlled, a conflict can be helpful to bring out emotions, to say out loud what we think silently. On the other hand, it can also cut off all communication and lead to silence.
Different ways to deal with conflicts
For some people, conflict is their only way to communicate with others. So how to deal with these people?
Well, everything depends on the way we are and how we react when a conflict comes up.
- We can avoid any source of conflict and feel terror at the merest idea of being involved in a conflict, as we may experience it as a form of violence.
- We might love the conflict, find it stimulating and use it to express ourselves without any difficulty.
- We can use the conflict as a systematic defense system even when there is no "attack" coming up,
- We can have a neutral attitude: not seeking a conflict and not trying to avoid it either.
As individuals, we all have our own perception of the world. It reflects our values, our way to hear, understand, feel and react.
Different types of conflicts
There are several types of conflict: conflict of interest, conflict of values, power, interpretation or projection.
One of the most frequently encountered in the business area is the conflict of interpretation or projection: it will be preceded by a strong emotion such as fear, anger, a feeling of injustice etc..
For example, consider a manager with a parental attitude; working in an emotional relationship with his employees, he will tend to be controlling to protect his team-mates. The manager will expect his employees to act in accordance with this scheme, according to the rules he has implemented.
Whereas an employee who is used to working independently will naturally act according to his own experience and to the rules of the profession, respecting the overall framework. He won't inform his manager of his everyday actions or choices.
- The manager might be thinking: This person does not respect my rules and procedures, he does not listen to me. The manager will feel "threatened" in his management and think that the employee is incompetent.
- The employee would think: I'm pretty pleased with myself, my manager will approve, I was efficient and professional and I have succeeded in my mission.
The roots conflict are already there. The manager would feel betrayed while the employee may feel unfairly attacked. Because there are so many ways to manage a team or to work with co-workers it can be difficult to understand each other. So how to overcome this duality of conflict?
Overcome a conflict
Let you guard down: Think of a knight who impulsively invites his rival in a duel. Similarly, when a person feels attacked, it immediately makes that person aggressive and tense. What if we started from the position that the other did not want to harm us? Of course, this posture means you have to understand your own emotions.
Prepare for the interview, analyse the situation and formulate your needs and your expectations. “This is what I feel., These are my needs and my expectations”. And be empathetic, ask yourself what your employee or co-worker was thinking. After all, they were doing it in the best interests of the company. Then, the dialogue can begin.
If it is an email, do not hesitate to write the emotional flow that comes spontaneously, without sending the email. Save it as a "draft". The next day, read it, keep only the facts you need. Allow yourself three factual lines at the end of the email to demystify the conflict, and re-open the dialogue.
Conflict is a relation game
Everything can end up with a conflict. And at the same time nothing is necessarily confrontational.
Think about this: there is only a conflict when it is decided that there is one. And to set up a conflict, there must be at least two of you. If one of the two does not want to play, then the conflict cannot exist.
A conflict is a kind of relational game. Like any game, you can refuse to play, especially when you are not involved in the conflict but a witness. But on the other hand trying to avoid a problem by ignoring it could lead to a disaster.
Instead, go for a WIN-WIN solution as soon as possible. In an exchange that seems to be heading into a conflict, do not hesitate to:
- Place yourself as the referee by listening, summarising and reformulating.
- Remove all the opinions that are not factual but emotional.
- Identify what is so important for each party that they feel they can't compromise on.
- Find the right words to define each party needs and expectations.
- Try to find what can connect people beyond the conflict. They might have a common interest or objective.
- Make each speak about this interest or objective.
- Both parties will understand that one common objective can be achieved in different ways.
- Make them think about how this conflict can bring them to learn from each other and work even better in achieving the same objective.
Communication is the key
Unity is strength, in day-to-day life as within a company.
- To avoid any conflict in the workplace, a successful manager should know their employees background, listen to them and their needs and share the workload in accordance with their skills.
- Plan person-to-person meetings to know the feelings of your co-workers. Some people are to shy to express their ideas in front of an assembly.
- And finally, always leave your personal issues at home!
'Managing conflict in the workplace: 4th edition' – by Shay McConnon, psychologist.
'Conflict Management' – by Baden Eunson.