The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
When conflict arises in the workplace it can be a very difficult situation to deal with, and as a manager it is ultimately your responsibility to help resolve the situation as quickly and effectively as you can. Each person will have their own way of reacting to and dealing with conflict situations, and this short video gives you MTD’s top tips on conflict management to help you resolve the situation and restore harmony to the work place as soon as possible. Learn More
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Dealing with conflict situations is not an easy option for most people at work. They tend to lean toward the extremes, rather than the solution, that is, they either become aggressive, passive-aggressive or submissive.
None of these behavioural traits are the most effective way of dealing with a conflict or disagreement at work.
One area that seems to raise its head in these situations is the need to hold on to some sort of power. To share power does not mean to give up power. You can liken it to sharing the light of a candle. When you light another person’s candle, your light doesn’t go out. You have more light for everyone. This enlightened approach to resolving conflict involves respect.
Respect is about recognising others as being different from you, not better or worse. The other person may well have a different set of values, beliefs and principles to you, and if you recognise that the other has different needs, you will appreciate the differences, rather than the things that are inherently ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’.
Thinking ‘win-win’ in this scenario will help achieve a resolution rather than an escalation.
Here are some ways to head towards this mutually-agreeable solution…
If you appear to be against the other person and simply trying to win yourself, the other will become naturally defensive. Being open, receptive and willing to co-operate will lead to collaboration.
Try to create an atmosphere where everyone can be seen to be ‘gaining’ from the solution. It may be that you won’t get what you want until others see that they get what they want.
Looking for more help with managing conflict at work? Try this article:
Head of Training
Of all the skills managers want to have improved, communication pretty much comes up there at the top. Along with negotiating a higher salary, of course! But
communication is such a broad subject. I often ask clients, ‘If there was one area of communication you find hard to deal with or improve, what would it be?’
A common answer is, strangely, confrontation with others. I say this is strange because surely a manager has the capacity to deal with difficult situations, and bring them to a natural, successful conclusion? Well, we’re all human, so maybe even managers sometimes feel the need to improve this particular skill.
Here are some tips on how to deal with confrontation, whatever its cause:
1) Make sure you are in full control of your emotional responses. By allowing temper, fear or anger to drive your behaviour, you lose some control over your responses. Your amygdala, which has a key role to play in regulating your temper, could run away with you if you allow emotion to get the better of you. Take a deep breath, to lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
2) If you have time to plan for the confrontation, think in advance what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. This gives you chance to control yourself and decide how you want the discussion to go.
3) Determine what triggers your responses. For example, if the other person uses bad language, do you respond likewise? If they shout, do you tend to reciprocate? Have an idea of how you respond against specific triggers, so you can choose your response, rather than being driven be an automatic reflex.
4) Often, a confrontational person will not be aware of how they are responding, as they are on automatic pilot. Make the person aware of how confrontational they are being. Saying something like ‘let’s talk about this rationally rather than having a shouting match’ or ‘Can we discuss this logically, instead of being aggressive’. Beware of accusing the other person…they may be aggressively defending themselves.
5) Show understanding and empathy if necessary. Saying something like ‘This obviously is very important to you’ or ‘This means a lot to you, doesn’t it?’ creates some form of equal rapport and enables you to calm any over-the-top emotions that may be driving their responses.
6). See the confrontation for exactly what it is. In other words, identify the motives of the other person. Are they angry for a good reason, or is it trivial? Even if it appears so to you, it might be touching the other’s hot button. The purpose of their argument might be to manipulate you, so be aware of that.
7) Plan for a collaborative response. It may not be possible for you both to ‘win’, but you may be able to deal with it in a way that makes future collaboration between you still work. Find the best way forward, and you have a chance of dealing with the solution rather than dwelling on the problem.
Not easy, of course, dealing with a confrontational situation, but by following some of the above ideas, you may create options that you hadn’t have thought of before.
Looking for more advice on dealing with conflict in the workplace? Try this article:
Head of Training
So, you’ve made all the plans on how to deal with that difficult situation. You know exactly what you are going to say to that person. You are confident that you’ve considered all the options and you’ve covered all the bases when it comes to their reaction.
And then they go and do something you hadn’t planned for.
Challenging reactions sometimes do occur, and if you get caught up in those reactions, you may not end up with the desired result you had planned for. One such reaction you may encounter is when the person becomes defensive and thinks you are actually attacking them.
Trying to get your point across when they are being defensive is difficult. How do they show defensiveness? Interrupting you, counter-attacks, blame, loud voice and defensive body language are all signs of this method of dealing with difficult situations.
What can you do when faced with this style of reaction?
1) Try to avoid debating the issue. This fuels any disagreement that may exist, because the other person will always try to justify their position from their standpoint. You sound defensive as well. If you try to out-debate or out-argue them, tempers may flare and you get nowhere near a solution.
2) Don’t avoid the issue. If you give up the moment the other person goes defensive, it perpetuates their behavioural style and you end up in a worse position than before you started. You will never get agreement and the other person will accentuate this behaviour every time in the future, because they see it working.
3) Show you understand their position. Through active listening, you gain a clear understanding of their point of view, a position the other person would have wanted in the first place. Reflectively paraphrase your understanding of the message they have given you. As Steven Covey says in his ‘7 Habits’ book, you don’t have to agree with them, you just have to understand them.
4) Respond to clarify, not to counter-attack. Ensure at this point you clarify the meaning of what the other has said. You’re not countering here, you are simply trying to make sure you are totally clear on the meaning of what they have said.
5) Clarify your position. After you have listened and ensured you are clear on their position, you can describe your position, without making it appear blaming or judgemental. Stick to facts, not opinions. They can dispute opinions but facts can be backed up.
6) Be positive in your intentions. Recognise their defensiveness is often a sign of either a lack of personal responsibility or some form of insecurity on their behalf. By being positive in what your expectations are, you allow the other to see how being positive themselves may help them achieve a desirable outcome.
7) Work on a compatible solution together. You are trying to work out a resolution to the conflict, so move ahead as quickly as possible to attempting to work out a solution. Focus on what you can do, rather on what you can’t, on what’s right, rather than what’s wrong. Take the other person forward with you to achieve that outcome you are both working towards.
Think through why the person is being defensive in the first place. That should enable you to determine the appropriate steps that will lessen the need for them to defend their position all the time.
Looking for more advice on dealing with difficult reactions from others? Try this article:
Head of Training