Be constructive, try to learn from your mistakes and move forward transforming the conflict into an opportunity
Different types of conflicts can occur at the workplace. The most common ones relate to the areas of responsibility – as in who is responsible for what in a given role – and to general misunderstandings. For example, arguments often happen when goals are not achieved, or there is a coming deadline for a project someone was in charge of but lacked control over its implementation because of overlapping responsibilities.
The best way to handle conflicts of this kind is to prevent them by making roles and responsibilities very clear right from the beginning.
However, if a conflict has already broken out you have to take action. How? I often had to address this question and suggest the best strategies to manage a conflict at work.
Here are my recommendations.
Separate the problem from the person
First, it is important to manage the issue in person in a meeting room and only address people directly involved in the conflict – never discuss it in an open space or in front of third parties.
The best technique is to separate the problem from the person and to look at the problem that is at the origin of the conflict. And look for a solution together.
Let’s say, we’re approaching a deadline and there are some critical tasks that have not yet been completed, we must ask ourselves why did it happen. What can be done together to fix it? What can be done to prevent it from happening again?
Create a win-win situation
It is also important that all the interested parties can express their points of view and find a common solution without blaming each other.
You should end the conflict by creating a win-win situation and leaving the parties with the mutual commitment to not let the same thing happen again.
Stay professional and polite
When the conflict occurs with people outside the company (customers, suppliers, external collaborators), the logic should be the same as when you’re dealing with a coworker — a common ground of understanding and dialogue must be found.
Be sure to check your tone when talking about an issue and remember to avoid confusing the problem with the person. Staying professional and polite is important when dealing with external parties as you’re representing your company.
Transform conflicts into opportunities
They say hindsight is 20/20. It’s important to look at a situation and ask yourself how your own behavior or performance could have impacted the onset of a problem. You should always ask yourself “What choices could have stopped the conflict in its tracks?” or “How can you prevent the same problem from happening again?”.
In conclusion, be constructive, try to learn from your mistakes and move forward transforming the conflict into an opportunity for enrichment and personal and professional growth. This is the best strategy, and certainly the most productive, for managing conflicts at work.