Dealing with conflict at work
BOB ROSNER -
March 22, 2004
DEAR WW: I've been battling with a co-worker for a long time. I'd like to end the conflict once and for all. Can you tell me how?
DEAR HATFIELD: Your e-mail reminded me of a conflict at the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church. The parishioners there voted 67-10 to fire their pastor. His crime? He refused to reschedule a consecration service that conflicted with the Super Bowl.
The pastor learned the hard way that a little flexibility goes a long way toward keeping people happy. It's no different when dealing with conflict at work. I've listed strategies below to help you take your conflict to a better place. For more, check out "The Portable Mentor" by Cy Charney (AMACOM, 2003).
- Do you try to see the world through their eyes? As my mom was fond of saying, "it takes two to tango." So take a moment to explore how you contribute to the problem. Then try to see the world through the eyes of the other person. What pressures, history and politics are influencing their behaviors?
- "Can we sit down and work this out"? Conflict's great enabler is the 10-foot poll. You've got to get up close and personal with the person you're having problems with to see if it's possible to hash out your issues. There is, perhaps unfortunately, no such thing as "long-distance" conflict resolution.
- Do you thank the other person for agreeing to meet? Don't ever take for granted that they agreed to talk with you. Let them know that you appreciate it.
- Do you use "I" statements? It's common when you are angry with someone to use a lot of "you" statements, like "you left early while the rest of us worked late." This tends to make the other person defensive and tends to block your ability to work together toward a solution. That's why it's important to use "I" statements like "I feel frustrated with how late Jim is having to work" to let them know what you're feeling without needlessly raising their hackles.
- Do you try to create a positive environment? Do whatever you can to make the other person comfortable. Bring up the conflict at a time when they aren't under a deadline, try to do it when they are in a good mood and offer to meet in a place where they'll be comfortable. A great peace offering? Offer to buy them a cup of coffee or lunch.
- Do you ask "what if" statements? Anytime you can brainstorm with the other person on possible solutions to your problem, you are more than half way home. "What if" statements are a great way to better understand the other person's concerns and to start the process of seeing if there are creative solutions to address both of your concerns.
Use these strategies to address your conflict and your prayers will be answered.