Difficult situations at work, conflicting interests, or unpleasant behavior from colleagues. Conflicts in the workplace are inevitable. Ideally, you want to address the confrontation, but how do you do that without damaging the relationship? Or worse, without making your colleague angry or upset? Here are 5 tips on conflict resolution.
Confrontation, the definition
What is a confrontation actually, and when do you consider it a confrontation? We often associate this word with a discussion, an argument, or a conflict that has escalated to a point where it seems impossible to resolve. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Try looking at a confrontation from a positive perspective. By doing so, you lower your expectations of how difficult it will be.
Consider friction or a difference of opinion as a necessary and healthy way to improve the relationship and collaboration between you and your colleague. Always approach the conversation with the intention of finding a solution together.
Some conflicts are more challenging than others. When dealing with a sensitive issue that can upset both parties, it’s important to approach it carefully. How can you address a conflict promptly without allowing it to escalate into an unnecessarily heated conversation?
#1 Keep it within the team
Escalating a conflict with a colleague to the manager undermines your colleague’s position. Keep it colleague-to-colleague. This approach creates respect, trust, and an open atmosphere that facilitates finding solutions. If the conflict can be resolved without involving managers, do so!
If you are a manager and receive a complaint from an employee about another colleague, always check if everything possible has been done to address the problem within the team before intervening and mediating.
#2 Define the problem
Before engaging in confrontation, you need to clearly understand what you want to achieve with the conversation and how you arrived at this point. First, make the problem clear and concrete for yourself. Choose a moment when emotions are not overpowering. This allows you to calmly identify where the issue lies. It’s important to minimize negative thoughts that can easily cloud your judgment.
What is the ideal outcome? Try visualizing this beforehand, giving yourself something positive to strive for during the discussion.
#3 Choose neutral ground
You have probably experienced a situation like this yourself: being called into an office or boardroom. Do you remember how you felt? Were you carefree and relaxed, or did you enter with a racing heartbeat and a knot in your stomach?
The setting in which you confrontations take place matters. Avoid formal sit-downs whenever possible and opt for a cup of coffee in a neutral yet private space, for example. When everyone feels as comfortable as the other person, there is less chance of anxious or emotional reactions.
#4 Balance emotion and logic
You have found a pleasant, neutral location and have a clear understanding of the problem. How do you discuss the conflict? The key is to find the perfect balance between your logical and emotional responses. When there is an excess of both, it often leads to an unsatisfactory conclusion for both parties. Therefore, strive to be as clear and factual as possible while still considering your own emotions and those of your conversation partner.
Remember that each situation requires a different balance. Adapt accordingly and bear in mind that a purely factual approach disregards the emotions and needs of your colleague.
#5 Always strive for empathy
Putting yourself in the shoes of the person you’re confronting is a means to achieve a peaceful resolution. Listen attentively to the reasons and circumstances the other person shares, and take them into account when formulating a solution. When you do this, both parties will feel heard and understood.
Finding a solution together is the goal
What often happens in prolonged workplace confrontations is losing sight of what you truly want to achieve. The goal should always be to find a solution rather than just discussing one problem that may reoccur later.
A good solution should be suitable and feasible for both parties. So, don’t simply propose a solution, but work together to determine how you will work towards it. Don’t set deadlines for when the change should be implemented, but let the other person know that you will support them along the way. Make it clear that you are available for questions and advice. This way, you also prevent future conflicts.