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Handling Conflict in the Workplace

Conflict Resolution Gets Easier With Practice

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Two businessman arguing
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Where do you begin?

Conflicts in the workplace can range from very petty annoyances that don’t necessarily affect your work to a full-scale confrontation that could affect an entire department or workplace if you’re interning or working for a small employer. Conflict can make any job very stressful so it's important to find ways to handle it so that both parties experience a win-win situation. Handling conflict is a skill that anyone can develop just by taking the time to ask some key questions and also by not making assumptions about what other people might be thinking or feeling. There are many opportunities for us to learn how to handle conflict better which oftentimes may consist of trial and error and finding a technique that works for you and your style of interacting with people.

Is conflict unavoidable?

It is unrealistic to expect that you will never have to handle some kind of conflict in the workplace. With so many types of different personalities and different ways of seeing things, conflict is usually a given so it’s best to learn how to handle it early on and to the best of your ability. Taking an aggressive approach or being defensive are usually two ways that will definitely not get you where you want to go. First off, you will want to take a step back to see if you are able to get an objective view of what really is going on. Understanding both sides of any issue is a great beginning of handling conflict in a constructive way. Admitting that you are wrong when appropriate can also move you forward in creating positive relationships in the future.

Learning to handle conflict as a college student.

As a college student you have probably had to learn how to handle conflict at some time during your college years. Living with one or more roommates in a residence hall can often be very difficult and requires some finesse in order to make a living arrangement that works for all involved. College courses that require team collaboration can often be a time of high stress since everyone has different ideas and different levels of involvement.

Periods of high stress can make situations more volatile and juggling the many commitments you are faced with in college can cause people to be more sensitive where in a more relaxed setting no problems may occur. College is an excellent time to learn the nuances of handling conflict successfully. At some point there will be problems to solve in any work situation and the consequences of poorly handling conflicts in the workplace can greatly affect your working relationships and your credibility as a true professional in the field.

Handling conflict requires honest communication.

When handling conflict in the workplace, one of the first things you will want to do is see if you can communicate honestly with the person or persons you are having a conflict with. Oftentimes conflict occurs because of a misunderstanding and making assumptions as to why something is happening without any input from the other side. Communicating honestly with the other person may be all you need to come to an agreement and nip the problem in the beginning before it has time to grow and fester. In some cases approaching someone that you are having a problem with is very difficult or impossible and in that case you will probably want to make an appointment to speak with your supervisor to ask their suggestions on ways you can deal with the problem yourself.

Most employers have established a set policies to help handle conflict in the workplace.

Most employers have conflict resolution policies in place. Oftentimes there are a series of steps that an employer will recommend that an employee take when dealing with problems they are encountering in the workplace. Since employee conflict can affect so much more than what’s going on just between two people, employers want to ensure that any problems between employees or within any one specific department are dealt with quickly and in a way where both parties feel accepted and heard. If you have failed to resolve a conflict by speaking directly to the other person or your supervisor, employers usually have a chain of command of where you can go next to help you solve the problem. It’s important to follow company rules and utilize all channels the company has set in place to show the employer your dedication in solving the problem and moving on to do your part in making a more harmonious workplace.

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