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Conflict Resolution Strategies in the Workplace

Every one of us has problems. You can never know what goes around in one’s head, behind closed doors or in their private life. Sometimes other people’s actions are unreasonable to us. We think: how can someone do what he did, or say what he said. Most of the time, other people are probably thinking the same things about you. Especially at work, where you may not have any real connection with anybody. You may know their relationship status, how many kids they got and where they went to college, but the people’s habits, characters and temperament might surprise you from time to time. Dealing with conflicts at work creates a lot of pressure, on you, on your coworkers and the entire working environment. You can’t resolve a working conflict same as you resolve a private problem, because different rules apply. If you are generally a squeamish person, you might hold a grudge for weeks until your wife finally picks up the ball. Life may have thought you to penalize your kids until they learned their lesson or you may be an argumentative person who likes being right all the time. However you’ve developed through life, when you’re at work, you have to have your business suit on. During your working hours, regardless of your private dilemmas, you need to be professional, principled and have standards that will speak for your competence.

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Winning a Conflict

It takes two to tango and the same principle goes for wars. Whoever started the conflict, at the end both sides have to cooperate in order to resolve it. You may think you are right and the other coworker is wrong. You may be able to bring valuable arguments to the table and ruin others’ careers or reputation. Winning a conflict won’t make you a winner in the office. You might win the conflict at the time, but in a long run, you will be the one who will have to suffer several losses. For one, your colleagues won’t appreciate your work ethics. Especially if you are the boss, the manager or some sort of authority, you are the one who has to lay the groundwork. Even if you are just another member of the staff, winning a fight doesn’t prove you are a valuable member of the company. It will only prove to your coworkers that you are willing to do and say anything to keep your job, make other people take the blame and pass the responsibility to the next person. Every working environment is stressful. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t call it work. We would call it fun-time, pastime or leisure-hours. That is why you have to do your part to make sure you aren’t adding stress and pressure in your environment. Remember that at some point in your career you may depend on your colleagues, their support might be just what you need to succeed. But people never forget how you treated them and there will be no one standing on your side when you need a helping hand. Manipulating people into doing things your way may work for a while, but no one will put up with it for very long. Resentment is a very powerful force that can ruin your career and status, so watch your actions closely and make sure you don’t trigger people into loathing you. Of course, you can’t make everyone like you, praise you and acknowledge your capabilities. There are people that will disregard your efforts just because they are not capable of doing a better job than you. That should discourage you or make you angry. On the contrary, you can sit comfortably and wait for them to trip and fall. People who are combative at work are usually the same people who are petrified of other people’s achievements. They are afraid someone else will accomplish better results and bring their efforts to the ground. If you want to sink to their level that’s your choice, but it will be better to climb up the ladder than stand and fight with meaningless people and their petty problems.

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Avoiding a Conflict

You have to realize that when you’re working with other people, sooner or later, conflicts are inevitable. Everybody has a different pace, different opinions and ideas. Particularly, if you are part of a team, where you have to make decisions or talk through ideas together, disagreements are bound to happen. This shouldn’t suggest that you have to create a fuss just to prove you have a different opinion. Also, it shouldn’t mean that you should back down and leave the job to the other members. Being a team means that you and your coworkers are associated in a joint action. When another coworker is leaving absolutely no space for you to express your ideas, feel free to comment on their indifferent attitude. Giving in is not a productive strategy and will hurt your career in the eyes of the superiors and coworkers. Other than that, letting colleagues having their way is a working style that will only make you feel unappreciated and lead you to hating or even quitting your job. Sometimes your opinion is worth more than others’ point of view, but it can be the other way around too. You have to learn to listen and share with the same quantity. Don’t get cocky only to demonstrate your assessments because other people’s concepts might upgrade your proposal or give it a new, better implication. When you want to propose another course or add an idea to your colleagues plan, asking politely will attract everyone’s attention. Start your sentences with a question instead of proposition when you want to interrupt a fellow worker. That will make them listen and give the impression that you are only suggesting your idea instead of imposing it. Speak only when you have something relevant to say. If you state what’s already been established or asking questions just to be a part of the discussion, no one will listen when you have something valuable to say.

Compromising and Collaborating

When you can’t seem to agree or find a reasonable solution in a conflict situation, ask all parties involved to observe the situation before their next steps. Often, in a middle of a dispute, every side guards their own opinions and the quarrel might come to a state where no one thinks clearly. In a business setting, standing firmly on the ground shows courage, determination and authority, which may be interpreted as arrogance by the other parties. Arrogance will get you nowhere and in no way you can solve the problem with measuring each other’s egos. Instead of the problem, think of the solution and consequences. Think backwards. Contemplate how your proposed course of action will solve the case and how it will affect other company members. Take everyone’s side into consideration and observe your own. Remember that you are team and every member in it has to work with more or less the same quality and quantity. Maybe your solution will make other team members inapt for the job and their best qualities will be eliminated in the process. Every participant has to be involved and contribute to the end result, so make sure that everyone can play his part in the process. The best conflict resolution strategy is compromise. The business can thrive only when each member of the company is satisfied. When you can’t decide upon something and everyone protects their own point of view, the only way to a successful result, is making everyone give up something. In most cases, the conflict cost more than convincing everyone to combine forces, so it will be best for all parties to agree to meet the other parties half way. In the long run, compromising will only build a stronger team, where everyone has done something for someone else. That is a friendly working environment, where instead of pressure and tension, responsive, collaborating and dynamic colleagues work as a team.

Combining Conflict Resolution Strategies

Most people have their own unique way of dealing with belligerent encounters. When you work with many people you will come across many different styles of conflict resolutions. Some people are more assertive and coming to agreeable terms with them will be harder than dealing with accommodating coworkers. You have to learn to make the best of every situation, regardless of how tough it is. Sometimes the situation will require you to be confident and forceful in your actions, while other times you will have to be the one who has to dance to somebody's tune. Whether the problem occurs between colleagues or is associated with the job at hand, taking different approaches to solving it, will make you a reasonable, articulate and fair teammate. It will be best to avoid getting into a conflict with your associates, but you shouldn’t stand aside if you have a logical suggestion that will increase mutual understanding. After every conflict resolved successfully, the group structure and their effectiveness are enhanced. Once a conflict is fixed, every party gets the chance to examine their actions and goals, and correct their mistakes. If you are some sort of superior in your company, conflict resolution strategies are of extreme importance. When you learn the most effective problem solving methods and how to apply them, you can prevent, terminate and even notice conflicts before they arise. That way you will gain respect in the workplace and have your colleagues hold you in high regard.

References

1. Resolving Conflict Rationally and Effectively http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_81.htm

2. The Politics of Dispute Resolution http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/sr285.pdf

3. United Nations - Peacemaking and Conflict Prevention http://www.un.org/wcm/content/site/undpa/main/issues/peacemaking

4. Resolving Workplace Conflict https://hr.colorado.edu/fsap/healthtips/Pages/Resolving-Workplace-Conflict.aspx

5. Workplace Conflict Resolution http://www.workplaceconflictresolution.com.au/

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