Manage conflict at work

Disagreements are inevitable, but there is always an opportunity to learn from them and potentially come to a better understanding. Read on for advice on what to do when you disagree in the workplace.

In the book Collective Genius, coauthor and Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill says, ‘[Diversity and conflict] are the critical ingredients to innovative solutions. When I looked at healthy organisations, I found that they build these norms in, where it’s psychologically safe to have conflict and discussion.’

Creating a safe space where conflict and disagreements are welcome can be tricky, but it is beneficial. You should strive for a healthy work environment at all times. These tips might help:

1. Be clear

Articulate the issue clearly. Most arguments stem from one party not expressing their view explicitly, resulting in the other party interpreting what is being said incorrectly. Don’t be afraid to be direct and upfront, but make sure you do it in a respectful manner that leaves no room for ambiguity.

2. Know that you’re not always right

Approach every argument as a learning experience. It’s human nature to always want to be right, so taking a step down can be tough. In the workplace, it’s about finding the best solution that works for everyone. Set aside your pride and use constructive criticism for professional improvement. It’s also a good idea to ask questions in order to gain a better understanding of the other person’s point of view.

3. Listen and accept feedback

After you’ve stated your side of the argument, be ready to hear and accept feedback. Listening is an important part of resolving an argument: you can gain perspective about the argument and your argument style from what others tell you. Feedback may not always be constructive, but it can help you and the opposing party find opportunities for compromise.

4. Calm down

If the conversation becomes heated, take a step back. Disagreement should not be a catalyst for rudeness or aggressive behaviour. Always be civil and remember that the goal is to find a solution that works for everyone, not break your team apart in the office.

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE.

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