chapter caucus

On A Team

Handling Conflict

The two most common problems in the workplace are miscommunication and conflict. Conflict in the workplace usually involves more employees than just the two in the conflict. Conflict, if left unresolved, festers and grows, and more employees become involved in the situation. Conflict can demoralize your employees and have an impact on everyone in the workforce. That is why it is important to deal with conflict and maintain positive working relationships with your coworkers.

What is conflict?

Some typical workplace conflicts include:

Not all conflict is bad. Conflict can be a time of growth or problem solving. Conflict can also be a time when coworkers learn more about each other and each other's ways of thinking and feeling. It may also result in clarified expectations and honest and open communication. These can only be seen once the conflict is over.

Conflict Styles

There are basically three conflict styles: avoidance, confrontation, and problem-solving. Most people choose either avoidance or confrontation, but neither of those is very good at resolving the conflict. Using a problem-solving approach is the best way to resolve any conflict.

The avoidance style allows the person more time and keeps the situation from exploding. The person is passive and hopes that the problem will just go away in time. This gives each party more time to calm down and think things over, but it also allows the problem to fester and possibly explode at a later time.

The confrontation style is just the opposite. The person is more aggressive and wants to take control of the situation. An aggressive person can be unpredictable and may be perceived as violent. This could make the situation even worse.

The problem-solving style involves many steps, but it can lead to an excellent resolution. The hardest part is defining the problem. This requires getting both people to discuss what has happened and how the conflict makes them feel. The problem-solving model would look like this:

Tips for Dealing With Conflict

Conflict exists in almost every environment, and if you are lucky, you have avoided being in the middle of it. However, if you do become involved in conflict in your workplace, here are some things you can do to help resolve it:

Things to Think About

Remember that your coworkers are people, too. They have lives, hobbies, interests, and they bring with them a past. You both have a responsibility to your employer to do great work for the company.

Handling conflict requires that you deal with it, and that you think of what is best for the company. It is not about you. If you take this attitude, you will look at the next workplace conflict in a completely different perspective. You may even be surprised at how easily the conflict can be resolved.

Next section:  Stress

Team Building Skills
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Velda Arnaud, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Lead, Educate, Serve Society

Last updated 10/4/14 (va)
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