Ten tips on resolving conflict in the workplace

Avoiding gossip, remembering to count to ten before retaliating and minding your language are all simple strategies to avoid conflict in the workplace.

A happy workplace is a productive workplace, according to author and self-help guru Kul Mahay – who has shared his top tips on how to avoid conflict and tension when in the workplace.

The former senior police officer says that resolving conflict in the workplace can take up time for both the employees and managers – but that most cases can easily be fixed at early stages by adopting certain strategies.

Workplace conflict is a natural consequence of working towards a certain set of goals with a group of people – not everyone will have the same approach. It is also easy to find yourself at the centre of a disagreement with a colleague due to the amount of time spent in the office.

While confrontation is never nice, by choosing the right time and place to talk, understanding other people’s opinions and learning to compromise, issues can easily be resolved

Kul, who is from Derby and works as a life coach, trainer and motivational speaker and works with clients from across the globe, recently wrote the book Smash The Habit, which aims to help readers banish bad behaviour and toxic habits.

Here are Kul’s ten strategies to resolve conflict at work:

1. Learn to breathe

When you suddenly find yourself in a situation that fills you with emotion, get yourself into the practice of taking some deep breaths and counting to ten slowly. This will allow your conscious mind to kick in and think through the situation and respond more objectively.

2. Everyone has something to say

Some people use aggression as a method to silence their ‘opponents’ during conflict. While it might silence one party, they will more likely harbour resentment or lose respect for the other. During every conflict, it is important to remember that everyone is allowed an equal opportunity to voice his or her opinions. This ensures a balanced discussion takes place, before you can start looking for a resolution.

3. Choose the time and place

If there is tension between you and a colleague, choose a certain time and place where you can have a conversation with them about the issue that has upset you.  This will ensure that when it comes to seeking a resolution, it is not tarnished by built up resentment on both sides.

4. Gossip – The Killer Issue

Gossip is one of the most common and yet destructive pastimes in office environments. It can lead to mistrust, bad feelings and very often anger among colleagues. If you are invited into gossiping by a colleague, try to change the subject, let them know that is of no interest to you or politely remove yourself from that group.

5. Mind your language

In the heat of the moment it is all too easy to use language that attacks the other person on a personal level. By doing this, recognise that it cannot lead to a healthy debate and is much more likely to put the other person in a defensive state. It can also lead to further confrontation. Instead, use professional, objective language to put forward your views. This will ensure that you come across as calm and there is more a chance of compromise as you move forward.

6. Don’t make it personal

It is important to be open to constructive criticism or feedback. It might not feel very nice but it is professional feedback at the end of the day. Don’t take everything so personally. See it for what it is and stop imagining that it is how people see you as a person.

7. Make sure you understand the other person’s perspective

Pay real attention to what the other person is saying. You may hear something that gives you a different take on the situation yourself and it might resolve the conflict much quicker. At the very least, your colleague will note that you are genuinely listening to what they have to say.

8. Compromise

Compromise is not about giving up on your ideas but adjusting them so that there is greater likelihood of achieving them in partnership with others. It can also build and improve your own ideas by including another person’s perspective. If you do not compromise the chances of reaching any resolution are weak at best.

9. Workplace mediators

Mediators can help both parties talk through the situation in an objective manner. Mediation is not about blame but about enlightenment. A trained third party hearing the discussion can cut through a lot of the emotional issues that are clouding it and add an impartial perspective to the situation. It helps to bring the conflict to an objective, level playing field.

10. Conflict is natural

Don’t put your head in the sand and pretend that conflict will never happen to you – it will. At some point or another you will have a difference of opinion.

Do not let that fester or gather momentum. Deal with the other person in a professional, relaxed and objective manner and you will enjoy healthy relationships with your colleagues.