5 Ways to Effectively Resolve Conflict with Coworkers
Disagreements happen, but they can be even more challenging to deal with in a work setting. Even when you are working for a company or on a team that is otherwise an excellent fit for you, you will likely encounter other employees you might not see eye-to-eye with. Conflicting personalities, personal struggles, and repressed feelings might find you on the other side of an argument or issue before you even realize it.
All employees should take the time to learn coping mechanisms for dealing with workplace conflict. You spend a third of your life at work, and you want to deescalate troubling issues as soon as they arise. The following are some tips, tricks, and steps you can take to avoid (or at least effectively navigate) problems at work.
1. Recognize and Utilize Constructive Criticism
Receiving and giving constructive criticism are some of the most crucial conversations you can have with a coworker. Criticism that helps you learn and ultimately become a better employee should never be turned down. It is easy to confuse constructive criticism with hurtful comments, especially if you are not used to dealing with negative feedback. But, toughen up!
Constructive criticism usually comes from a place of care. Your coworkers should want to be successful. This will show, particularly if they bring up these critiques in a helpful, actionable way. Constructive criticism should not be rude or embarrassing but rather, it should serve as a tool to help you succeed. If you notice that your coworkers are giving less than helpful feedback, or you simply feel berated, you may need to address your issues with them.
When considering how to give constructive criticism, remind yourself of your goal. (You want to be helpful, not hurtful!) If you don’t have anything constructive to say, don’t say it. Or, figure out a way to deliver your messages thoughtfully and with respect.
2. Take Your Time To Cool Off
How often have you said something you didn’t mean in the heat of the moment? This can be particularly difficult in a work setting, as emotional reactions are not as easily understood as they might be in a personal relationship. Your communication with a coworker could boil over at any time, but don’t give it a head start. Instead, and to avoid “killing” your coworkers, take some time to cool off before you escalate a heated conversation, or confront someone in a frustrating moment.
While it may seem trite, or hard to do at the moment: consider taking a brisk walk around the office, getting some air, chatting with a work friend, or taking some deep breaths. Once you’ve (physically) cooled off, set aside a specific time to talk with your coworker about the issue — and bring talking points to stay on task!
3. Address Issues As Soon As Possible
One of the worst things you can do when arguing with a coworker is to stew in your anger. Instead of wallowing in your frustration or annoyance, set a time to speak with your coworker alone. Issues you have with your coworkers are usually best solved privately, so no one feels embarrassed or backed into a corner. Discussing issues in-person can sometimes create a more open dialogue and faster resolution.
Being able to see your coworkers face, work through the issue, and come out on the other side is vital. The power of text messages and emails may be enticing to you but solve the problem face-to-face instead. When you address issues face-to-face, you can talk things out in real time, and read the other person better. The faster an issue is resolved, the less time you have to dwell.
Rumors spread around work quicker than you might think. Like it or not, we sometimes become intrigued by conflict. Avoid rumors or airing your dirty work laundry at all costs. This tip can also aid in the status of your reputation and overall likability — if people recognize you as an individual who is not likely to speak poorly about others, then they will take you more seriously when you do speak to conflict.
4. Understand The Importance Of Compromise
When you are dealing with a complex issue, you can’t get everything you want. Though this may seem obvious, it can be helpful to keep in mind as you navigate choppy waters at work. Any great relationship (a coworker or not) involves give and take and the recognition that the solution to a conflict will often arise when both parties compromise in some capacity.
For example, instead of getting upset with a coworker because you feel like they don’t clean around the office enough, create a cleaning schedule everyone has to follow. Instead of dwelling on all the times you cleaned, and they didn’t, think about what you can do going forward. The compromise is that everyone has cleaning duties now, including you.
5. Bring In A Mediator When Necessary
While they are incredibly helpful and necessarily intimate, we can’t always fix the problem with a face-to-face conversation. If you cannot solve the problem on your own, bring in a mediator. A mediator can help both you and your coworker sit down and have an honest conversation. Make sure this mediator is as neutral as possible. Don’t use someone who might take sides. Your company may have a specific mediator, or you may have to pick another coworker. Present the mediator with both sides of the story and let them walk you through the situation until it’s resolved.
Dealing with workplace conflict is a part of being an employee. Getting frustrated, annoyed, and or irritated is part of being human. How you respond to criticism, disagreements, and other issues at work matters. We hope these tips will help you be productive the next time you have an argument at work and allow you to resolve the issue before a situation escalates to a point of no return.