Have you ever had a job that offered the kind of work you love, so should have been pleasant – but instead felt like a war zone? One so filled with conflict and disagreement that it seemed impossible to concentrate and get any work accomplished?
Many work in that environment every day, and the situation is a detriment to everyone concerned – even the customers, who can feel the tension in the air. Productivity slows to a crawl, moods go sour, and everyone has a bad day – every day.
It's a situation that needs to be nipped in the bud, and quickly.
Some conflict is good, and healthy. It means that people are thinking, and perhaps trying to make improvements in service or quality of goods. That conflict is out in the open, ready for cooperative solutions.
The dangerous conflicts happen when one person feels wronged. Perhaps someone got passed over for a promotion, lost a client to another salesperson, or was publicly embarrassed by a co-worker. Perhaps you had an idea that was not heard, or you refused to listen when someone else spoke.
Conflict can also come from personal habits like talking on the phone too loudly, eating noisily, or wearing offensive perfume. It could even come from a non-work situation.
For whatever reason, the resultant ill will continue to grow, feeding on itself. It can pull the whole workplace down as workers begin to take sides, to use what should be productive time discussing the problem, or to avoid certain people and situations at work because of the tension atmosphere.
Conflict takes many forms. It can show up in snide comments or in meetings when every suggestion is shot down. Perhaps one person gives an icy cold shoulder to another, "forgings" to pass on messages, or transmits disapproval with every glance. People begin to threaten others' efforts in an attempt to make themselves look better.
There's no conversation and no problem solving. Instead each co-worker or client who comes in contact with the combatants feels uncomfortable.
Why do we put up with this? Because most of us will do everything possible to avoid confrontation. Sometimes we hesitate for fear that we'll be attacked – and shown that it is really all our fault. Sometimes we hesitate because it sounds petty to complain about how someone else eats – or smells. And who wants to admit that they're causing friction at work because a neighbor's dog barks at night?
It's easier to remain miserable than to speak up. But confrontation is the solution.
The best way to cure workplace conflict is to meet it head on.
First, before you speak up, try to determine the true source. Have a good talk with yourself and understand the situation and your part in it.
- Did you do something to make the other person feel right in his or her attitude toward you?
- Are you really just in your attitude toward them?
- Is the reason for the conflict real? Or could it possibly have come from a misunderstanding – or gossip?
Write down the situation as you see it, then insist on a meeting.
If you are the injured party, getting your feelings out in the open will help you tremendously. Even if the thought of confrontation is terrifying.
If someone else feels wronged, the very best thing you can do to help them get over it is let them know that you value their opinions and feelings. Actually listen to what they have to say.
Discuss what happened with an honest desire to understand. But do not make accusations or tell them they "should not" feel what they feel.
Once you've discussed the problem, work together to find a solution. You may not become fast friends, but you should be able to let go of the animosity so everyone can work in harmony.
If you are not directly involved in the conflict, but influenced by the mood it creates in your workplace, you can still take steps to resolve the issue.
First, refuse to indulge in office gossip .
Simply refuse to be sucked in to the conflict. Instead, ask them to meet and resolve the problem, but offer no opinions.
And then, smile and get on with your work.