Kinds of Workplace Conflicts
Let’s start by identifying where conflicts happen. Think about the kinds of conflicts that happen around your workplace.
Common Ways of Dealing with Conflict
These are some of the ways we typically deal with conflict. Do you see yourself in any of them?
All of these responses are nonproductive. Some of them are actually destructive. This is why learning to manage conflict is so important.
Effect on Work Relationships
The workplace is a system of relationships. Relationships have many different aspects; here are several examples:
When conflicts are handled well, there’s a positive effect on work relationships. When they are not, these factors can deteriorate. Productivity and the free expression of ideas are also impacted.
Factors That Affect How People Manage Conflict
The skills involved in managing conflict are learned behaviors. None of us is born knowing how to deal with differences of opinion, arguments, or turf wars. Some of the factors that affect how we behave in the face of conflict are:
Conflict Resolution Skills
No one is born knowing how to resolve conflicts. Conflict resolution is a set of skills that anyone can learn. Let’s look at two important ones: active listening and conflict de-escalation skills.
Active listening is a valuable skill for resolving conflicts because it enables you to demonstrate that you understand what another person is saying and how he or she is feeling about it. Active listening means restating, in your own words, what the other person has said.
Active listening is a way of checking whether your understanding is correct. It also demonstrates that you are listening and that you are interested and concerned. These all help resolve a situation when there are conflicting points of view.
Active listening responses have two components: (1) naming the feeling that the other person is conveying, and (2) stating the reason for the feeling.
Here are some examples of active-listening statements:
Actively listening is not the same as agreement. It is a way of demonstrating that you intend to hear and understand another’s point of view.
Benefits of Active Listening
If a person uses active listening as part of his or her communication style at work, how would that be good for resolving conflicts, i.e., what are the benefits?
Everyone has been in an argument that has escalated. Before you know it, it’s blown out of proportion. Let’s think for a moment about some actions that will help you deescalate a conflict. In your experience, what actions put a stop to the defend/attack spiral?
Conflict Prevention Skills
Now that we’ve talked about how to resolve a conflict, let’s look at how to prevent conflicts from happening. Here are a few ideas:
FirstCALL Your Employee Assistance Program can help you to develop a plan to improve communications skills in your workplace. Call your account manager for a consultation or call 1-800-382-2377 for a free, confidential appointment, in person or by telephone, with one of our counselors.
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