3 Tips for Handling Interpersonal Conflicts at the Workplace

September 2, 2011

Interpersonal conflicts amongst coworkers is inevitable in any workplace.  Any time you bring together so many different personality types and people with all kinds of issues from the past, relationships at home, lifestyles at home and other issues – – there will be conflict.  While conflict cannot be avoided at the workplace, there is certainly ways to combat the conflict rather than the typical solution many people choose (intentionally or not), which is avoidance.

Avoidance only creates more problems.  These are just a handful of the issues that might develop when people that avoid and don’t deal with the issues that may be brewing amongst another coworker (or coworkers):

  • Gossiping and rumors amongst other coworkers, creating a divide between employees and more conflicts between people
  • Lack of production and motivation to work, since so much energy and focus goes into the conflicts at work
  • Small conflicts become larger conflicts because any future conflicts that come up just pile up with all of the ones that haven’t been dealt with
  • Conflicts and negative feelings are harbored when they may be altogether unnecessary and misplaced due to miscommunication and misunderstanding

There are plenty more issues that can come up as a result of avoidance, so what do you do?  Here are just 3 tips for how one can handle interpersonal conflicts in the office.

  1. Put yourself in your coworker’s shoes.  One of the things that many people are guilty of is not taking themselves out of their own shoes and putting themselves in another person’s shoes.  Could Jane have reacted the way she did because she just lost her mother a month ago and still hasn’t dealt with that loss?  Could John’s reaction to what I did be a valid reaction, because what would I have done if someone in my office had done that to me?  When people begin to ask themselves these types of questions, they can often find some validity in another person’s reactions or ways of handling situations due to something you said or did.
  2. To bring it up or not to bring it up?  There is no direct answer for this because each situation and the people involved in it are different.  According to business coach, David Giuliano of Without Boundaries Coaching, if you are going to confront someone to make yourself feel better, you shouldn’t approach that person.  If you are going to confront someone to get their feedback, hear their side of things and find out what can be done in the future to prevent the conflict in the future, then speaking with a coworker about what happened would be a good idea.  Of course, the ultimate effect of clearing the air and resolving the conflict is that both parties will feel better – – but if your sole purpose is just to make yourself feel better and get “your side” out to this person, keep it to yourself.
  3. Learning from the conflict.  One of the best things that can come out of resolving personal conflict, whether you chose to confront someone or simply move on from it, is to learn from the lesson that can be learned from it. You cannot control how people react or how they will respond to a situation, but you can certainly be more aware of what things were said or done that triggered those reactions.  Perhaps what you may think to be “funny” brings up a very painful or hurtful reminder or issue for that person?  Not to say that you intended to hurt or upset someone, but just that you be more aware of how your actions can cause reactions that result in conflict with someone else.

Conflict is inevitable, but it is manageable so that people can move on from their issues with each other and come together for the common cause they were brought together for in the first place – – to work together towards the same purpose for their employers.  Conflict doesn’t have to be the silent killer (or even the open and very obvious killer) of relationships at the workplace.  It just needs to be handled correctly.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central Indiana, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Indiana. We would love to connect with you on Facebook.

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