5 Key Skills You Can Build to Manage Conflict in the Workplace
is a guest blog by Walter Bodell
Conflict is an inevitable part of life. People with the healthiest relationships, both personally and professionally, understand and recognize this fact. Rather than trying to simply avoid conflict, they learn to manage conflict and work through it. Developing good conflict resolution skills for the workplace is possibly one of the most important things you can do to create a healthy working environment both for yourself and for others. By learning to manage and resolve conflict in the workplace, you can make yourself an invaluable part of almost any team. Here are 5 critical elements to you can use to manage conflict in the workplace.
1. Be aware of and learn to manage your own emotions
Perhaps the most key element in effectively managing conflict is managing your own emotions. But you can’t manage your emotions if you aren’t tapped into and aware of them. This is also critical because it is important to not address important issues with others when you are not in a good place mentally or emotionally. Keeping your own emotions in check will go a long way towards creating a low-conflict environment around you.
2. Learn to listen
Probably one of the very most effective techniques you can use to mitigate office conflict and drama is to listen. While people may not always know they are telling you when something is wrong, they almost always will if you learn how to pay attention and what to listen for. Office dramas are like storms – they almost never hit without warning but many people don’t pay attention to the warning signs. Learning what to listen for will always tell you when conflict is coming. The better you get at seeing it coming, the better you can get at heading it off before it gets destructive
3. Learn to set good boundaries
While most work environments involve and encourage a certain amount of teamwork, a great deal of workplace conflict and drama is often created by a lack of clear boundaries. In some cases, you may be the type of person that wants to be the person others depend on, but this can lead to you taking on way more work than you should be doing. In many cases, work others should be doing. Then in other cases, you may be the type that always lends a sympathetic ear to the point where you become the “office shoulder to cry on,” draining you emotionally and taking you away from your own work. There is a lot to be said for setting and maintaining professional boundaries and doing so can help you avoid a great deal of workplace drama.
4. Learn to negotiate
As much as we’d all like to believe that we all act like mature adults, the reality is that we tend to act like small children more often than we’d like to believe. One of these childlike behaviors that can rear its ugly head in the workplace is the desire to get our own way. While there is nothing wrong with wanting what we want, being part of a team often requires compromise. In some cases, however, individuals or parties can dig in their heels and refuse to compromise. You can make yourself an invaluable part of any team by mastering tried and true negotiation tactics that can help you bring opposing factions together and create peace in the workplace.
5. Let it go
Another common cause of tension in the workplace is caused by an inability to let go of the myriad of small slights and insults that tend to naturally happen any time people spend a good deal of time together. Over time, these small “paper cuts” can build into a giant, massive, gaping wound just waiting to erupt. Don’t mistake “letting it go” for simply burying your resentment and anger. Genuinely learn to let the little things go and save your energy for genuine problems. There will always be plenty of those to deal with.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions below on how you manage conflict in the workplace.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success