Wherever you have two people together the potential for conflict is there.  All of us have our own perspectives, opinions, backgrounds and areas of expertise.  Individual agendas clash all the time.

One of the problems with conflict in the workplace is that conflict in general is seen as a bad thing.  Conflict in itself is not bad, out of conflict with others comes new ideas, different perspectives and opportunities for growth.  A problem solved is no longer a problem.

Another issue with conflict in the workplace is the tendency of those involved to deny that it exists.  Organizations want to present a united front and recognizing the existence of conflict means it has to be addressed.

All companies of any size have some sort of employee handbook that gives instructions on how to address conflict with a co-worker.

Most of these entail, talking to the person one on one and if that does not work, speaking with your supervisor and working up the chain of command in a proper and orderly fashion.   That would be great if it worked, but it rarely does.

If you are in confrontation with a co-worker in all likelihood emotions are involved, feelings are hurt and trying to address the issue is like walking into a land mine, no one would do that on purpose.  So, you “agree to disagree.” We all know that this tactic will not resolve anything and over time resentment will build.  Resentment builds in an individual and tears down whatever relationship you had.

Unless you are perfect many times even if you have decided to drop the subject, how many of your other co-workers are only too aware of your opinion on the matter?  How much gossip or water cooler talk is taking up time on this “dropped” issue?

When you are in this situation, here are some things to consider:

  • Are you willing to die on this hill?
  • Can you give into the other and walk away from the issue quietly without looking back?
  • Is this issue interfering with your and/or coworkers ability to perform daily duties?
  • Is the stress in the office affecting your health?
  • Are you spending a lot of time discussing this issue with other co-workers, family or friends?
  • Is the bottom line of your company affected?

The answers to these questions will tell you the importance you are placing on this issue and whether it is just important to you or also others.

Instead of confronting the person a more effective way to handle the situation would be to ask for a Mediator, someone who is skilled in mediation and has an unbiased opinion on the matter at hand.  A mediator can help you and your co-worker express your “side” in an unemotional, non judgmental way.

Often when one holds an opinion adamantly their emotions are attached to that opinion and it is hard for them to see things from a pure perspective.  Sometimes the ability to understand the other person’s reasoning in a rational manner is helpful to bring a peaceful resolution.

Many times it is a lack of understanding of the other person’s motives that cause one to jump to the wrong conclusion.  A third party can assist in this process.  It may be necessary to bring someone in from the outside as most of the co-workers will have been caught up in this conflict to one degree or another.

Ready to get this conflict handled?  Begin the New Year with less stress and be able to enjoy going to work.

 Elizabeth Hammer-Speaker, Trainer

See this website under Meet the Team for further information and how to have Elizabeth as your next Speaker.