Face it: there will be a time in your professional career when you don’t see eye-to-eye with a colleague, a manager, or one of the executives at your company. You will disagree.
It may start over something small—an email, something someone said in passing, a comment at a meeting, or even a look in the hallway.
We’re here to help you prevent it from snowballing into something bigger. Why? Because you’ll have the skills and confidence to resolve it.
1. Accept that conflict is part of the workplace
Why? Because we’re human. Avoiding it? Not a great idea. Embracing conflict is part of your job. Avoiding problems doesn’t solve them—it makes them worse.
What creates conflict? As humans, we have our own opinions and our ways of doing thing. A bad day, an opposing viewpoint, a competitive power struggle, ego, jealousy, pride. The list goes on.
Let’s not forget about proprietary issues. Did you have an idea that someone else co-opted? Did you use someone else’s idea?
Here’s what it boils down to: communication and emotions cause conflict at work (and in other places, too).
So: what should you do? See #2.
2. Address it as soon as possible
Why? The longer you wait, the more likely your conflict will grow into hostility. You need to have an in-person discussion.
This doesn’t mean losing it with your co-worker in the hallway. It doesn’t mean sending a nice email. It doesn’t mean barging into your co-worker’s office and demanding his or her time. It doesn’t mean talking to your friends about it.
It means waiting until you’re calm, scheduling an appointment, and discussing the problem together. Need help? See #5.
3. Stay positive
Why? So you can prepare yourself for future problems. This doesn’t mean that you and your colleague have to be best friends. It means that you have to work together. It’s easier to work together without a sneer.
Conflict didn’t resolve as you had hoped? Don’t complain. Carry on with your work. If something feels unethical, then question it. Otherwise? Move on.
4. Consider that you may be at fault
Guess what? This could be your fault. Recognizing and accepting this is painful, but if a problem is your fault, admit it, apologize (and mean it), and move on.
How do you know if a conflict is your fault? Are you usually at the center of trouble? Has more than one person formed a negative opinion of you? While the answers to these questions could stem from a variety of reasons, they could also indicate that you caused a problem.
Whether you intended to cause a problem or not doesn’t matter—if you did, own it. It’s time to be a professional.
False accusations are a different story. If your co-workers are trying to blame you for something that clearly isn’t your fault, speak up.
5. Get mediation
Sometimes you need help breaking the tension so that you can resolve the conflict, come to an agreement, and move on with your work life comfortably.
A good mediator will listen to both sides and help you come to a resolution. Ag great mediator will force you to see your colleague’s strengths, despite your dispute.
Sit down with someone who will make you and your colleague respect each other for who you are, recognize your differences, and come to an amicable, workable solution that you both feel comfortable with.
Remember: you’re not in this situation because you don’t care. You’re in it because you do—and because you’re trying to do a good job. If you can recognize that your colleague might be coming from the same angle, you’re already ten steps ahead of the game.
Keep your chin up. Conflict is hard and can feel isolating. Don’t let the work you care about suffer because you’re having a rough patch with a colleague. Do the right thing, stand by your convictions, apologize for unprofessional behavior if you need to, and work hard. You can do it.
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