How to deal with conflict
Stage One: The Background
In the workplace (and almost any setting), you are likely to find two forms of conflict. The first is conflict about decisions, ideas, directions and actions. We will call this “substantive conflict” since it deals with disagreements about the substance of issues. The second form, “personalized conflict” is often called a personality conflict. In this form, the two parties simply “dont like each other much”. Substantive conflict can occur on just about any issue, but its moving force is that the two parties simply disagree about an issue. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. Handled correctly parties in conflict can create, for themselves and those around them, the ability to resolve an issue with something creative, something better than either partys original position. While substantive conflict, if handled correctly, can be very productive, personalized conflict is almost never a good thing. There are several reasons. First personalized conflict is fuelled primarily by emotion (usually anger, frustration) and perceptions about someone elses personality, character or motives. When conflict is personalized and extreme each party acts as if the other is suspect as a person. Second, because personalized conflict is about emotion and not issues, problem solving almost never works, because neither party is really interested in solving a problem…in fact, in extreme cases, the parties go out of their ways to create new ones, imagined or real. Third, personalized conflicts almost always get worse over time, if they cannot be converted to substantive conflict. That is because each person expects problems, looks for them, finds them, and gets angrier.
Stage Two: The Prelude
I have had to work fairly extensively with a colleague who is just impossible. She is arrogant, stubborn, sometimes abusive, and acts like she is right about almost everything.? At first I tried to ignore it, but it just gotten worse. Its so bad, I feel like every night when I go home, all I think about is how miserable this person is. It is also affecting people around us, since we all spend so much time talking about this person.
Stage Three: The Flashpoint
There are several situations in my workplace that make my blood boiled. One instance is in the shop has only one oven, and every staff (baker and shop assistant) use the same oven. When the open the oven or ask my colleague ???Can I use the oven??? She would rather shout at me than say it in a nicer way. It make me so annoyed. She would call me names and say unpleasant words. Another instance is when I did something wrong or did some mistake. She would make me felt like I am so stupid. Thus, it affected my self-esteem. At one point, I had enough. I went to her face and told her everything that I felt bad about her. She was surprised and did not know what to say and she did not came back to work for three days.
Stage Four: Strategy Selection
These situations tend to occur over time. Small annoying behaviours left unattended move to bigger more annoying behaviours. Here are some ideas:
At a time when both you and the other person are calm, ask if you can talk to them (do it privately-this is between the two of you). Approach the situation in a non-accusatory manner. When possible find things to agree on, and offer something. If the conversation is going well, you might want to make a request.
Since you are clearly frustrated, it is likely that you are doing things that convey your frustration to the other person. You shouldnt have to take abuse and smile, but neither should you be attacking or reacting in kind. It is important that you deal with things firmly, but nicely, and without dramatics. No eye-rolling, no heavy sighing, no guerilla activities. If the other person is rude or nasty to you, you can respond with quiet dignity and set limits regarding the specific behaviours, but if you react angrily, you will almost always make the situation worse.
Immediately stop making the situation one for public discussion or discussion with other staff members. This is disruptive to the organization, but worse, it will make it more difficult to fix the situation. When you gossip about someone else, you tend to focus on the worst parts, and paint that person in a negative way. That affects your thinking and actually shortens your patience, particularly when you get covert support from others. Do you want to win or do you want to fix the problem.
The time to have dealt with this situation was early on, with a combination of politeness, firmness, and limit setting. In some situations, the conflict has become so polarized that you may need help in dealing with it, both practically, and personally, to change your way of looking at it. One possibility is to talk to your manager and explain the situation as objectively as possible.
Stage Five: Final Outcome
Request help or suggestions, and focus on fixing the problem, and taking some responsibility for it. The outcome may be that the manager may bring you both together to talk about the situation and work out a plan, or even that you and the other person might get involved in mediation, or some other form of intervention.
Your responsibilities include:
??? approaching the other person in a polite, problem-solving way to work things out.
??? avoiding actions (like gossip) that make the situation worse.
??? a willingness to recognize that you have probably contributed to the problem.
??? listening to the other person rather than trying to convince or bully them.
??? seeking help from others in a dignified, open and constructive way.
Your rights include:
??? setting behavioral limits and consequences when nasty, abusive behaviour is directed at you.
??? the expectation that the other person will work in an open problem solving and courteous way.
??? an expectation that management will help, but may not be able to solve the problem without your cooperation and that of the other person.
How to deal with conflict