If you're like me, you hate even the idea of conflict. Conflict in any aspect of your life is awkward, but it reaches a whole new level of uncomfortable in the workplace. Many people see their workmates more than they see their own families during the week. If your interactions in the office are filled with petty arguments and negativity, you will end up dreading a large chunk of your life.
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But conflict, no matter how much we hate it, is unavoidable in the workplace. You're working closely with a number of people. Everything from someone getting your coffee wrong to stealing your ideas can and will lead to friction.
Since workplace disputes will happen at some point in your career, it's your job to figure out how to resolve them. To help you do that, here are some of the best tried and true methods for settling workplace conflicts:
1. Don't Wait – Address the Issue as Soon as Possible
Because we dislike conflict, we often try to ignore it when it occurs. This is an understandable response, but if you let issues with your colleague(s) fester unaddressed, they will only get worse.
Whether the issue is big or small, make sure to get out in front of it. Deal with it as soon as it arises. Ignoring an issue out of anger, fear, or pride will cause the problem to take on a life of its own. At that stage, there can be no turning back.
If, on the other hand, you suck it up and talk to your workmate, there is a good chance you'll both be able to laugh at the problem and resolve it before it becomes serious.
2. Get a Mediator
Getting an impartial mediator involved is a great way to make everyone feel comfortable, and it keeps the situation fair. At times, parties involved in a conflict might be too close to the problem to figure out a resolution. A mediator brings a fresh pair of eyes and ears to the situation and can help the parties arrive at an impartial resolution.
3. Be Calm, Cool, and Collected
When a disagreement arises, you have to remind yourself that the only way to hear and be heard is to be cool, calm, and collected. Your aim should be to have a conversation, not an argument. Avoid raised voices, sarcasm, and passive aggression.
When you decide to air your grievances, do so by approaching your colleague(s) politely and sitting down together. Doing this immediately brings a level of calmness and order to the situation, as if you were about to have a regular team meeting.
On the other hand, if you walk up to your colleague and simply start talking at them, your body language will be confrontational. In defense, they will go into attack mode, too, leading to even more conflict.
4. Ask Questions and Define a Mutual Objective
When you and your colleague sit down to talk about your differences, you need to tread carefully when making your points. Remember that this can be a volatile situation. The wrong phrasing can lead both parties to erupt. It's your job to ask questions instead of making statements.
Ask your colleague questions to better understand the situation. Instead of making accusations, discuss your feelings. This way, both of you will be able to get your points across, and you will be able to come to a simple solution.
Once everything is on the table, you both need to agree on what you want out of the situation. Come up with a mutual objective. Whether it's someone paying for lunch or a simple apology, make sure a resolving action is set in place so you can draw a line under it and start fresh.
5. Show Appreciation
If a colleague owns up to being in the wrong and you settle on a mutual objective, you need to show some appreciation. As enjoyable as it might seem, don't say "I told you so!" and walk away. That behavior will only reopen the wound. Instead, show your coworker that you are thankful the situation has been resolved. For example, send a thank-you note to your colleague the next day expressing your gratitude.
Kate Thora is a senior content specialist for Uphours.com, an online resource with information about businesses worldwide.