Are clashes at work stressing you out? The solution can be as simple as sitting down and talking.
Most jobs present enough challenges and pressures; no one enjoys having to deal with workplace conflict in addition to it all. Two experienced leaders in very different industries offer their insights on the importance of simply talking — before and after problems arise.
“Poor communication is, in my opinion, the only cause of workplace conflict,” says Jonathan Butcher, Manager of Centralized Workforce Management at CGI, an outsourcing, systems integration and consulting firm. “It creates misperceptions, hard or hurt feelings, and suspicion. It also breaks down efficiency, results in reactive instead of proactive measures, contributes to poor performance, and causes general dissatisfaction.” Reacting negatively can be as simple as snapping at colleagues or as dramatic as resigning, but whatever the case, both the company and individuals involved lose out – and all because of miscommunication.
One of the best ways to keep communication lines open is to keep cool under pressure. As furious as she may feel when a big problem comes up, Tenny Nigoghossian, Executive Director of Advancement at The Canadian Stage Company, tries not to react right away or make a bigger deal of a situation than necessary.
“I investigate what happened first. I don’t let things slide, but I do think long-term and consider my relationship with my co-worker. I’d want someone to be merciful to me if I mess up next.” Once you’ve put the conflict into perspective and taken a few deep breaths, you can talk it out.
Jonathan Butcher’s six tips for dealing with conflict
Conflict happens. Be prepared for it, and be prepared to address it. However, don’t look for it where it doesn’t exist.
Whether offering feedback, criticism or complaints, everyone likes to know that they are being heard and taken seriously.
To ensure understanding and avoid jumping to conclusions, clarify what you have heard and gather as much information as possible.
Meet in person
Avoid writing or saying via telephone anything you would not say directly to someone in front of you.
Document the issue
It serves as a summary of the discussion, making it easier to obtain consensus. It could also serve as justification to take further action.
Take a clear position
Let your staff know you expect them to work as a team and resolve conflict themselves — but that you are available for assistance. “People begin to speak more and listen more,” says Mr. Butcher.