Workplace Conflict: Dealing With Drama (and Preventing It in the First Place)

Every workplace has its share of drama. From serious issues like harassment to annoyances like cutting in the bathroom line, and every disagreement in between, it can be a challenge to diffuse these situations without adding more fuel to the fire—especially if you find yourself right in the middle of the battle.

Fortunately, there are many conflict management techniques that may help get you out of a sticky situation, as well as tools and guidelines to put in place that can help prevent arguments and conflict throughout your organization.

In the middle of a conflict? Here are few things to try.

  • Stay focused – Conflict can heighten emotions, which makes it easy to become aggravated and lose sight of the goal. Remember what you are trying to achieve in the argument and keep your mind on that end.
  • Seek to understand – Consider the other side of the argument carefully. What are the goals of the person you are fighting with? Is there any way you can find an alternate solution that gets you both what you want?
  • Laugh it off – Sure, there are some situations where you really can’t make light of the issues. But some minor conflicts could be easily diffused with a wisecrack. It’s important not to say anything mean-spirited or insensitive, but a little good-natured self-deprecation can encourage the other party to back down more easily.
  • Let it go – Think about what’s at stake if you were to give in. Sometimes, your relationship with the person you are at odds with is more important than whatever it is you disagree on. Weigh the options and decide if letting it go is the best choice.

Want to prevent conflicts? These tips may keep disagreements from arising.

  • Clarify priorities – Employees are often relying on others to do their jobs in order to properly do their own, so it’s no shock that one of the biggest reasons people fight at work is because of disagreements on how each team member should prioritize their work. Making these priorities clear from the get-go could help temper expectations (and tempers.)
  • Create a formal complaint process – If a conflict occurs, what are the organizations’ expectations of its employees? Are they supposed to report the incident to their boss? Address the other person directly? Hide under their desk? Setting workplace-conflict guidelines is an important step to managing friction between employees.
  • Train mediators – Is there a manager, HR staff, or another party that is responsible for dealing with conflicts? If not, assign one, and if so, see that they are well trained. It’s a request that is above and beyond the typical managerial duties, so it’s your organization’s responsibility to see that they are prepared.

Workplace fights happen. But arming yourself and your organization with these tools and guidelines might prevent a battle from becoming a war.


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