Unfortunately, 85 percent of employees deal with conflict on some level on a regular basis. According to a Workplace report published in 2017, a startling statistic unearthed is that U.S. employees spend 2.1 hours per week involved with conflict, which costs employers approximately $359 billion a year.* Wow. The hurt and tension between two or more people costs employees and companies quite a lot.
It would be nice if we could always work well together, but unfortunately, conflict exists.
Someone hurts our feelings, shares a snarky message, behaves in an aggressive way, incites conflict or cuts us off at the knees with a caustic remark. We’re hurt. We’re angry. We want to let the other person know how we feel and that we will not tolerate this kind of behavior. Yet the idea of confrontation and facing an aggressive person head on is something most of us don’t enjoy doing. So, we let the tension escalate. This can lead to workplace conflict.
According to the Society of Human Resources Management, the negative effects of workplace conflict can include work disruptions, decreased productivity, project failure, absenteeism, turnover and termination.
Typically, the best solution to address and work through the conflict is to face it head on with open dialogue. Sometimes you’ll find yourself outside of the conflict or inheriting the conflict and you may need to learn to navigate the conflict. Sometimes the conflict comes from your supervisor, which may require you to enlist human resources support or consider the sustainability of your career.
But most conflict can be reduced or resolved completely. Facilitated conversations, coaching, mediation or honest and direct communication help reduce the residual tension that hangs in the air when issues aren’t resolved. While it isn’t easy, it is the only way to resolve conflict.
Here are four steps (4 C’s) you can take to reduce and prevent conflict moving forward:
Clear: First, many conflict resolution experts and therapists (and me, your coach) encourage clearing the emotion from the conflict. Any kind of conflict leads to unhealthy levels of emotional stress, which can then be both a cause and an effect of additional workplace conflict.
One way to clear emotions is by writing down your feelings in a journal, letter or email but only in one that you will never share. Let me repeat—never share it. There’s something cathartic about putting our feelings in writing, it’s almost as if there is a physical transfer from our chest and minds to a piece of paper. The stress decreases immensely, and it helps you sift through your emotions to find the facts while bolstering your confidence.
Confront: The second step involves confronting conflict head on. And that begins with confronting your feelings about the conflict. If you’re investing too much of your day and time and emotions into the conflict, that needs to be confronted first. In the movie Ghosts of Mississippi, Whoopi Goldberg’s character relays one of the most valuable pearls of wisdom. “When you hate, the only person that suffers is you. Most people don’t know it and the others don’t care.” This is hard to accept sometimes. But when you have hate in your heart, you’ll first need to learn how to forgive. Once you’ve confronted your own feelings about the conflict then you can confront the situation head on. If you’re concerned about facing your aggressor or worried that your intent or words may be miscommunicated, then work with your coach to get clarity on your concerns and work through anger, pain and hurt.
Communicate: Now you should be ready to communicate your concerns and find an unbiased facilitator to help both parties address their points clearly and without allowing emotions to take over. This is also a great way to be seen as a leader and get any unwarranted behaviors on the record. When you stand up to a disrespectful colleague you are taking back your power and stopping conflict from escalating. Healthy communication is key to resolving conflict if you go about it in an unemotional way.
Conserve: You are a powerful person so don’t let anyone take that away from you. Instead, know that you should believe in yourself and achieve for yourself. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Don’t let others get in your head, and don’t let others guilt or get you down. And please don’t let others take your power away from you. You have the power, potential and opportunity to make your career successful, happy and conflict-free. Conserve your power and your professional reputation. Always keep in mind what is important to preserve your dignity and power. Everything else is white noise.
How To Be Career Happy? Reduce Conflict In Your Work Life
* “Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It to Thrive” Report.