A harmonious office is a productive office. But with the variety of personalities, attitudes and beliefs that can be under a company’s roof, differences can rise up that lead to conflicts that hurt your employees’ productivity. If you are facing a situation like this, do not worry, here are 10 tips for resolving conflicts before they get out of hand.
1) Let things cool down first
When you are working in a team and somebody is not carrying their own weight, things can get heated fast. The key is to diffuse the issue before things get too fired up. Nip the problem in the bud before it grows into something bigger, but do not rush things either. Let the situation settle down a bit before attempting a resolution, otherwise, you could be dealing with fired up people who are not clear-headed and rational.
2) Stay positive
Idea stealing occurs pretty frequently in competitive, tense working environments. Avoid angry accusations and express your concerns in a clear, calm manner while giving your co-worker the chance to respond in an honest, constructive way. And maybe even holding your meeting while going out for a cup of coffee or taking a walk – you will have a good chance of settling the issue before things get angry or hostile.
3) Employ “active listening”
Want to meet with your manager over not getting the promotion you deserved? Do not go into their office hotheaded and vent, stay calm and be willing to hear what they have to say. Sincerely listen, ask thoughtful questions, attempt to see it from your manager’s perspective and consider the feelings on both sides. By focusing on reaching a calm, reasonable resolution, you will keep the conversation civil without it devolving into a battle of personalities and wills, which could only make things worse.
4) See if your co-worker can offer a solution
Got a loud co-worker sitting by you that is constantly babbling through personal phone calls? Do not snap at them. Instead stay cool, write down what you want to say, and wait for a time when neither of you is busy. When the two of you do talk, be willing to consider and listen to your co-worker’s thoughts and attempt to find a solution that you will both find satisfactory.
5) Think about the part you have played
Gossip is part of office life. If you have slipped up and said something you should have stayed tight-lipped about it is not the end of the world. However, things tend to come full-circle and if you are challenged by a co-worker on a rumor you started, do not attack or stonewall; admit your mistake and let life go on. You do not have to be best friends with your co-workers, but it is critical to be able to get along with them in a respectful, professional way.
6) Put together an employee meeting
An office is often a place where values collide. If you have a co-worker who frequently leaves the lunchroom microwave a macaroni stained mess, things get can irritating fast – especially if you are a bit of a neat freak. The simple fact is that some people put next to no value or attention on what should be obvious courtesy cleanliness. However, by scheduling a meeting to discuss standards of cleanliness, you can make sure everyone understands what is expected without having any direct one-on-one confrontation.
7) Try to see it through their eyes
Stuck with a co-worker who is always interrupting conversations? Sometimes rude behavior is just the result of someone not realizing what they are doing. It is not that they mean to interrupt or cut you off, but some people do not learn to check themselves before they jump into a conversation. In fact, a lot of conflicts happen due to honest misunderstandings and a failure to make clear your own intentions or not quite grasping what your co-worker needs or wants. Initially giving your co-worker the benefit of the doubt helps you stay calm and approach them in a non-combative way. Calmly ask if they are aware of what they are doing and carefully listen to their response – often times no offense was intended and there is a good chance they’ll now reflect on their behavior in a constructive way.
8) Acknowledge others
Does it seem like your manager is playing favorites? Before you get resentful, consider they might just feel certain employees require a bit more attention. By acknowledging their perspective, you will take the edge off any hard feelings you have and help avoid an unnecessary confrontation. When you sincerely listen to your manager and attempt to appreciate their perspective, you will have a much better chance of gaining a future ally.
9) Go to human resources
Sometimes an issue goes beyond a simple personality clash. Harassment involving gender, age, race, etc. can call for higher-level intervention. In this case, you will want to go through formal channels by speaking with your manager and human resources and filing a formal complaint. You will additionally want your complaint put in writing, including the specifics of what happened, when it happened, how you were impacted and how the conflict will be resolved.
10) Be introspective
The only person you can really control is yourself. When co-workers irritate you, your first and best weapon is to control your emotions. Conflict in life is unavoidable, so you need to have yourself mentally prepared for it. If something disturbing or stressful happens at work, you want to take a bit to think about how and why you reacted the way you did. What sets you off? What are you really feeling and thinking when it happens? How are you coping skills and could they be better? By reflecting, you will make yourself more self-aware and better prepared for dealing with conflicts in the future.
While nearly inevitable, office conflicts do not have to turn into serious problems. By implementing the above tips into your office environment, you will not only reduce stress and avoid heated arguments, but actually improve worker relations, which should lead to a happier and more productive work atmosphere.