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What not to do when dealing with conflict at work


Steer clear of these behaviours to effectively handle tension and stop it from turning into chaos.

Do not point fingers
Sure, the mistake might not be completely your fault, but if you find yourself tempted to point fingers when something goes wrong at work, step back, pause and think twice. Blaming someone else, even if their contribution was a negative one, will reflect poorly on you. It’s important to own up to our mistakes, even partial ones. Being honest and taking responsibility for your actions enhances your credibility at the workplace. Be frank about what went wrong and suggest what you can do to control the damage and correct the situation.

Do not make colleagues choose sides
It might make you feel better to bring in colleagues who back up your version of events or agree with you. However, we suggest you avoid doing this and keep the people involved in the conflict to a minimum. By claiming that your colleagues agree with you and support you might make the other person feel like you’re ganging up against him/her. It also comes across as being mean spirited. Also, you’re forcing your colleagues to publicly choose a side. But just because they might agree with you doesn’t mean they want their feelings to be known to all. So don’t put them through that.

Do not give into to your emotions
While it might seem obvious, we’ve all lost our cool and let our emotions get the better of us in the heat of the moment. And while that might be okay with family and friends, it’s not appropriate to do so at work. Some people get so caught up in their emotional response that they speak without a filter and end up disregarding the other person’s dignity. Which is a big no-no. We’re not asking you to be emotionless, but rather to deal with the situation on a professional level rather than and emotional one. Inability to do so will raise questions about your ability to deal with tough situations.

Do not let silences unnerve you
There are often uncomfortable silences during a high-tension conversation. And the awkwardness pushes us to rush in and fill the silence. Resist the drive to do so. You might think you’re salvaging the situation, but you’re not. Make yourself get comfortable with these silences. Don’t try to push past them. Maybe the pause is necessary to understand all the things said and let the information sink in. Or maybe the other person needs some time to think before talking. Rushing through could also give the person the impression that you are overbearing and pushy, and want to wrap things up quickly. So give everyone some time to think and also calm done. Let the pause show that you are comfortable in the conversation and want to spend time to resolve the issue.

Do not assert your authority
If you hold the upper hand, either through rank, seniority, connections, or any other circumstance, you might to be tempted to issue an ultimatum as a way to resolve the conflict. But by doing you’re displaying arrogance and a high-handedness that implies that manipulation and intimidation are okay in the workplace—whereas they are not. Your behaviour sends the message that you believe the problem lies with the other person and that they need to change. None of these are appropriate actions for the office. Instead of seeing the other person as difficult and problematic, view the situation as an opportunity for learning and growth, a way to increase efficiency. Disagreements hold within themselves the potential for growth, so avoid alienating your colleague and work to understand the situation.

Photograph: yanalya /freepik.com