Tackling Conflict Step by Step
It’s human nature to avoid dealing with conflict. From an early age, we intuitively feel acknowledging conflict is scary, and we look for ways to ignore what’s uncomfortable or what could make someone else uncomfortable. As a result, avoidance seems normal in the moment but over time such behavior can create serious consequences and within the workplace environment, this can make an employment situation seem untenable.
Types of Conflict
- Personal and Relationship Conflict are identity-based and involve feeling a lack of trust or respect in a relationship.
- Instrumental Conflicts involve procedures, structures or organizational elements that relate to the individual.
- Conflicts of Interest relate to perceived levels of importance, knowledge or expertise and may involve the distribution of money, time, or space.
Defining the Conflict
Conflict continues to exist in part because we each have unique experiences and stories that shape our life. These stories play a role in what we find upsetting and what creates positivity. Irritations that fuel these situations are often repeats of past events or reminders of unresolved issues. When it’s time to deal with a conflict, it’s important to understand where you are coming from.
Questions to Ask
- Is this a long-standing problem or a small irritation?
- Is this feeling elevated because of a bad mood or high personal stress levels?
- Does the other party understand you are upset and why?
- Is there an established pattern of behavior or is it a one-time event?
- Is it possible to articulate the issue or is it many smaller things wrapped together?
- Is the conflict genuine or part of a personal story or past hurt?
Unless you’re the rare person who enjoys conflict, it takes time to build the skills necessary to initiate these conversations. Just the act of mentioning an issue out loud is scary. As uncomfortable as it will be, it’s important to be proactive before it becomes unmentionable and creates resentment. In this case, have a plan for a potentially uncomfortable conversation with a boss, co-worker, manager, family or friend in advance. Understanding what you want to accomplish will allow both parties to safely share feelings and opinions without fear of attack.
Once this is clear, you can see what’s creating conflict and take steps to solve the issue. Warning! This is a process requiring courage and practice to feel comfortable with. Practice by writing out what you want to say in advance and ask someone to talk through the steps. The goal is to find what you need to work through a conflict. Each effort to bravely convey feelings in an honest way is empowering and can help the other party also find the confidence to ask clarifying questions on the path to finding common ground.
This article is brought to you by Staffing Kansas City, a Kansas City employment agency that provides contract-to-hire programs and direct hire placements, in addition to contract employment services.