Workplace conflict is unavoidable.
So, how can we prepare ourselves to deal with conflict constructively and professionally?
After all, conflict is an essential, and healthy, component of all interpersonal relationships. The key is to prevent bottled-up emotions or uncontrollable outbursts from causing workplace toxicity.
There will always be some kind of dispute or conflict when dealing with people. Conflict within the workplace is a persuasion exercise. You must be able to solve problems and determine the best solution for all parties.
Here's how to handle several workplace conflict scenarios.
1. Getting off to a bad start with a new colleague
You got off to a bad start with a new colleague. They asked for your assistance responding to a customer complaint, but you declined as you were working on a tight deadline and did not want to waste time.
You two have had a falling out ever since, and you are now seeking their help on a task, but they are not responding well.
You must own it. Find an appropriate time to approach them and say, "I understand that we were off to a bad start. Please accept my apologies. X is the problem I am attempting to solve. Can we have a discussion about it?"
Irrespective of who the dispute is with, be it a subordinate or your manager, demonstrating self-awareness will make them think more highly of you. The talk may be awkward, but it is preferable to a strained relationship that could last for years simply because you two started off on the wrong foot.
The key point is how you approach the situation.
Maintain respect throughout the dialogue and recognise that at the end of the day, you are attempting to resolve something so that you can move forward with whatever task or plan you are working on.
2. Someone sends you an urgent request after office hours.
You are annoyed because your coworker, who's in another country, continues to message you at 6 a.m. (your time). They send you supposedly urgent requests while you are sleeping or just waking up, and you are sick of getting 7 queries before you have even sat down at your desk. You get the impression that they do not like you, and you are unsure how to confront them.
Avoiding confrontation only makes your situation worse! Instead, make time to talk with them. Bring your collaborative spirit to the table!
Ask questions to get to the bottom of the problem, such as, "Is there any specific reason you send me messages before I am up?" "Am I replying to you too late?"
You can help them clarify their needs once you comprehend why they are doing it. For instance, they might send you 7 messages at 6 a.m. because it is just before lunchtime, and they do not want to forget their queries when they go on break.
Now you must devise a solution that is acceptable for both of you. Can they set a Slack reminder to ping you with their concerns when you are at your desk? Can you ignore their texts until you clock in now that you know they are not time-sensitive? Should you arrange a morning check-in instead of sending these queries via message?
Have an open conversation to alleviate any tensions that a long distance can cause.
3. After you were promoted, things became uncomfortable between you and your coworker.
You received a promotion that your coworker was also vying for. So now you two are in an awkward situation. You want to maintain your friendship, but they are not speaking to you outside team meetings.
Approach the person and take ownership of the situation. Tell them you understand it is an awkward situation, but you would like to keep the relationship going. These are difficult situations, but radical honesty is required.
Take the initiative. Make an icebreaker. Figure out how to collaborate.
Never apologise for your promotion or advancement in your career. Prepare to accept the other person's decision if they no longer wish to continue the friendship.