Magazine article Business Credit

Managing Conflict

Magazine article Business Credit

Managing Conflict

Article excerpt

Although most businesses are able to minimize conflict among coworkers with the aid of insightful management, communication can still break down occasionally. Regardless of the level of cooperation and camaraderie among employees, misunderstandings do occur.

A colleague who misses deadlines on a project for which you are jointly responsible, for example, can jeopardize your own productivity if you fail to address the issue. However, how you handle the chain of events can impact your future working relationship with this employee as well as how you are perceived by your entire group. Knowing how to react with diplomacy and tact in difficult situations can make you significantly more effective in your job.

Consider the following suggestions for helping to manage potential conflict in your office:

Address The Situation Directly

When faced with coworkers who purposely or inadvertently create roadblocks to your progress or that of the team, you may be tempted to take your complaint to the person's manager: instead, try going directly to the source. A better approach is to ask for a one-on-one meeting with your colleague and be prepared to discuss specific instances in which a specific action (or lack thereof) created challenges for you. Keep the meeting positive and the dialogue constructive by focusing on actual events--what happened and the consequences. Stick to the facts and avoid comments that may call into question his or her intelligence, competence, motivation or sense of commitment. And, of course, be open to hearing the other person's side of the story.

This approach will not work in every circumstance, but by taking a less confrontational, more thoughtful approach to resolving conflicts, you stand a better chance of maintaining your calm and circumventing problems down the road.

See Both Sides

Get to know the people you work with--try to understand what motivates them as well as what annoys or frustrates them. Also, be cognizant of the pressures they may be under and set aside your own agenda to see things from their perspective. Before you ask for help on a project, for example, determine whether your request will be overburdening an already busy worker. If you take appropriate steps to help ease his or her workload, you'll be rewarded with a more willing aide.

Know Office Protocol

Be sensitive to your department's unwritten rules or traditional methods of doing things, especially when the group is under unusual pressure. Although, for example, the only person from whom you may technically need to obtain feedback on a project you've been assigned is your immediate supervisor, protocol may dictate that you also seek the blessing of a coworker recognized as the "resident expert" in that area. If you invade this person's territory with a new idea you bring before the entire group, your action can create resentment and compromise future working relationships. If you're a keen observer of office protocol, you'll approach the internal expert early on, to solicit his or her input and support. Also, remember that for your idea to succeed it must be perceived favorably by other employees whose day-to-day activities and responsibilities will be impacted. Be sure that you also get their buy-in as you go, as well.

Share Credit Generously

Whenever you report the results of a project in which you were one of several people involved, remember to share credit and always use "we" instead of "I" in both your written and oral presentations. And if you're the team leader, mention the specific contributions made by various members of the group. Be certain not to overlook the contributions of anyone when it's time for public acknowledgement of a successful initiative.

Use Humor Appropriately

A little humor on the job can ease stress, help maintain perspective and motivate others to do their best work. An employee with a good sense of humor, who knows how to harmlessly use it, is perceived as easy to work with and a welcome addition to a project team. …

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