Deal With Workplace Conflict?
Tips for Managing Workplace Conflict
Direct Discussion - How to Approach a
Co-worker Why We Avoid
Dealing With Conflict
Are All Conflicts the Result of Personality
Clashes or Poor Behaviour
Communicating in Conflict
Managing Anger - Yours and Others
Being Hard on the Problem - Not the Person
The Role of Assumptions, Perceptions and
Expectations in Conflict
Being Hard on the Problem –
Not the Person
What is meant by the title of this
section? Often when we are feeling angry at what another person has
said or done we see the person as the problem. We become very “hard” on
that person and view what they say and do in a negative light. As long
as we see the other person as the problem there is little chance of an
improved working relationship.
When addressing workplace conflict it is
important to analyze the issues from both your perspective and the
perspective of the other person. The adage “walk a mile in my shoes” is
appropriate when it come to conflict as it is important to have empathy
and understanding of the other person’s experience, not just our own.
Following are some tips for analyzing the issues underlying the
- Ask yourself:
this conflict about?
What does the issue appear to be on the surface?
What is it about this issue that has me upset and angry?
Do I have underlying concerns, wants, or needs that are not
What is needed to improve on my
- Try to guess what factors might be
contributing to the conflict for the other person.
might they see the situation?
How might your colleague be viewing your actions?
What needs might s/he have?
What is important to that other
- Own your own perceptions, that is,
acknowledge that the way you see the situation is not necessarily
the way the other person or others might see the situation.
- Assess whether you have made
assumptions about the other person’s intentions or actions that need
to be checked out.
- Examine what your expectations are
of the other person or of the situation and in what ways your
expectations were not met. Would the other person be aware of or
share your expectation?
- Consider what your alternatives are
should you be unsuccessful in resolving this conflict. This will
help you better understand your situation and alternatives. A
feeling of having choices always lowers anxiety and fear.
- Consider whether there are external
factors impacting the working relationship.
your supervisor give unclear directions to both of you?
Is there a lack of consensus in the department on what an
effective timetable looks like?
Are there pressures on one or both of
you to achieve unreasonable goals?
- Describe the problem in a
non-blaming, non-personalized manner.
“I believe one of our problems is
communication. I don’t know what you need to get your job done and
you don’t know what I need to get my job done.”
Some of the elements of the statement
above are that the problem is described:
- Using an “I” statement, so it is
clearly being acknowledged as your opinion (not as objective
truth, such as “It is clear the problem is…”)
- As mutual (our problem)
- Using a neutral term
(communication, not poor communication or “you never talk to
- With parity between the parties
(You don’t know and I don’t know…)
If you can describe the problem
without blaming, put-downs or generalizing about the other person,
then you are ready to be hard on the problem, not the person.