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Executive Corner – Just Deal With It!

Michael Clegg | 06/14/2023

Workplace conflict is a pervasive issue that can have significant consequences for productivity, well-being, and organizational success. From interpersonal clashes with difficult colleagues to the impact of crises and conflict entrepreneurs, effectively managing conflict is essential for fostering a positive work environment. In this article, we will explore key insights from various sources, including Harvard Business Review and Wrike, to provide practical strategies for navigating and resolving workplace conflict.

Conflict is okay! In many cases, when handled properly, conflict promotes growth! New ideas from different perspectives can drive change and advancement in your company.

But first, we need to address the types of conflict.

Recognizing Different Perspectives and Challenging Assumptions:

Interpersonal conflicts often arise when individuals who hold different perspectives have a difficult time seeing situations through the other’s eyes. It’s crucial to acknowledge that your viewpoint is just one among many. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for a tense situation that ultimately leads to negative conflict. By adopting a more open mindset and being aware of any biases you may have, you can foster understanding and empathy, creating a foundation for conflict resolution.

Conflict happens all the time, no matter what the cause, but if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t see things from the other’s point of view, you can effectively navigate these conflicts by approaching them with an open mindset and a willingness to challenge your own beliefs and assumptions. Each person brings their unique background, experiences, and values to the table, shaping their perspective on a given situation. By acknowledging the validity of different viewpoints, you lay the foundation for understanding and empathy.

From a leadership standpoint, it’s important to consistently promote diverse thinking throughout your team. Encourage the collaboration of these different viewpoints can drive more constructive conversations

Shifting from “Me Against Them” to Collaborative Problem-Solving:

This “me against them” attitude seemed to become more prevalent throughout the years of the pandemic. The rift between the two sides of that sticky situation caused an even deeper psychological divide to spread across humanity called “splitting”. This is where people stop seeing the gray area between good and bad and begin to categorize situations (and even other people) into a “with me” or “against me” mentality.

There’s no single remedy to this type of mentality, but in order to keep these types of conflict out of the workplace, it’s important to promote a collective focus on finding common ground and solving problems together. Clarify the goals and intentions when engaging with challenging your team, emphasizing a collaborative approach that fosters cooperation and mutual benefit. By reframing the conflict as a shared challenge, you can promote constructive dialogue and resolution.

Dealing with Conflict Entrepreneurs:

Conflict entrepreneurs are individuals who inflame conflicts for personal gain, often seeking attention or power. Recognizing their patterns of dysfunction and extreme behavior is crucial. Rather than demonizing them, cultivate compassion and spend more time listening and understanding their perspective. Redirect their energy towards more productive endeavors and establish a culture of good conflict through rituals, boundaries, and rewards for healthy conflict behavior.

Overall, Workplace conflict is a complex and multi-faceted issue that demands attention and effective resolution strategies, BUT it shouldn’t ever just be dismissed. It should be dealt with and embraced. By recognizing diverse perspectives, promoting collaboration, and understanding the underlying causes of conflict, individuals and organizations can navigate conflicts with colleagues more successfully. Cultivating a culture of healthy conflict, fostering open communication, and providing support for conflict resolution can create a more harmonious and productive work environment, leading to improved engagement, retention, and overall organizational success. Once you deal with it, you can grow your team, your intentions, and your company.

Sources: Harvard Business Review (1)  Harvard Business Review (2)  Harvard Business Review (3)  Wrike  Pollack

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