Wherever human beings are, there is bound to be conflict. Regardless of the institution – whether it is a religious organization, fraternity, club, workplace or group of friends – conflict can happen.
The good news is that conflict is necessary for growth, development and success. The bad news is that in the moment, conflict rarely feels good.
There are a variety of conflict-management styles that allow effective communication at work and home. The conflict-management style that is your default is likely one you have learned at home or while growing up. The challenge is to have enough self-awareness to effectively assess whether your individual conflict-management style is productive.
From many years of therapy and executive coaching, I have learned that each of us has an inner child, or an underdeveloped shadow persona, and sometimes that inner child experiences conflict with others’ inner child.
Other times, we have deep philosophical differences about vision or the path for executing a vision. Yet still, I have been taught that people come into our lives – again whether at work, home or a social organization – to teach us areas in which we need to grow. Therefore, conflict is inescapable.
4 Conflict Management Styles for Effective Communication at Work
For effective communication at work, I recommend the following styles to successfully manage conflict:
1. Be Proactive
In crisis communications, I often counsel clients and colleagues that before a situation develops into a full-blown crisis, there are frequently warning signs. Failure to observe and act on red flags and warning signs leads to crises.
To appropriately address conflict in the workplace, I recommend leaders and staff be as proactive and preemptive as possible. The moment you get a sense that something is off, investigate.
Alternatively, if you believe a problem is lurking, preemptively address it. Change course. Choose a different path. The worst thing you can do is pretend that a fire is not a fire or that an ember doesn’t have the potential to get bigger if stoked.
2. Be Clear
We have all heard the feedback of sandwiching negative feedback between two positives. I am not sure how I feel about this recommendation because it can lead to confusion. If there is a conflict in the workplace, lovingly but directly outline the problem. Do not wait until the point you are frustrated, because that is counterproductive. I have made this mistake countless times.
Out of a concern for other people’s feelings, I have remained silent only to reach a tipping point of frustration. When I finally unloaded what I was feeling, it was overwhelming and, in certain cases, destructive. Had I been willing to tell the truth earlier, I could have offered it in a way that was constructive and helpful.
State specifically what you are experiencing and the impact it has on you, the team and the organization. There should never be confusion. If you work in an environment where being direct is not valued, you will need to weigh what is more important: falling in line or being effective.
3. Make a Request
When you experience conflict at work, be sure to make a specific behavior request you’d like to see changed. In addition to outlining how a person’s actions may have impacted you, help the person by citing a specific request for what he or she can do going forward.
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