Turn that Conflict Around

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Last week’s column on criticism struck a nerve with lots of folks and several asked me to discuss conflict in the workplace. If we think about what is a major cause of stress at work, dealing with conflict has to be near the top of the list. Thinking resilience in the face of conflict will help resolve the matter efficaciously and help keep your stress level down.

Conflict is more than unavoidable; it’s desirable. Leading team building researchers say that teams go through different stages and one of them is called “storming” where team members must address differences of opinions and find common ground so they can grow into effective team members. Furthermore conflict provides the opportunity to confront toxic situations in the workplace before they turn cancerous. Here are some tips to turn stressful conflicts into resilient solutions.

  • Don’t be a scaredy cat: Take a deep breath and ask yourself how you can turn this negative energy into something good. First responders run towards danger while the rest of us run away from it. In your workplace, become a first responder by embracing the opportunity being afforded to you by the conflict.
  • It’s all in the words: Effective communication salves the conflict wounds. Being a great listener and acknowledging legitimacy of feelings can go a long way to defusing the situation. Everyone has a “what’s in it for me” perspective. Recognizing how it operates for everyone is invaluable.
  • Put time on your side: Emotions usually drive conflict, so while people are passionate about their issues they may also gain a new perspective after they’ve had a chance to vent their frustrations.
  • Define acceptable behavior: No reason not to hit conflict head on and is someone is out of bounds, let them know. Sometimes people just don’t realize what is appropriate, in part, because its never been defined. One of my clients realized that his team was fighting all the time because he did not define how he wanted meetings run so everyone thought it was a free for all.
  • Pick your battles: Even though we want to view conflict as good, we don’t have to look for it everywhere. Most of us want to avoid conflict and sometimes that is the correct choice. Play out the scenarios ahead of time and make sure your choice leads to a good outcome.

Thomas Paine once said, “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Being resilient to conflict turns those negatives to positives.

© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2015

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