How to Deal with Workplace Conflict

“Conflict can be helpful in making necessary changes within the home or work environment. However, unresolved conflict can result in feelings of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, hopelessness, depression, and other emotions. It can result in behaviors such as physical or emotional withdrawal, resignation from jobs, dissolution of personal relations, aggression, and even violence.”
– Conflict in the Workplace, Mary Rau-Foster, April 2000

Most people spend the biggest part of the their day at work. A work week takes up five whole days that are planned completely around the job. You wake up at a certain time, dress a certain way, and drive to a certain place for only one reason: work. It is usually here that a great many relationships are formed. The people around you make up an important aspect of your job, and the stage is set by whatever tones these work relationships have. An ex-lover in the workplace, for instance, makes for a very tension-filled climate. No one wants to spend the bulk of their day at a place filled with tension and personal pain.

When conflict arises in the workplace, it has a way of taking over and eclipsing all else.

“Understanding how conflict arises at work can be very helpful for anticipating situations that may become turbulent. While it may seem, at times, that anything can start a conflict where you work, conflict typically stems from a limited number of causes.”
– Conflict In The Workplace, Brett Hart, Ph.D., 2000

The way you feel at work very directly affects productivity. Feelings of stress, fatigue, even hunger all contribute to how effectively you work and how well you perform your job duties. When thoughts are focused on conflict, negative feelings and productivity result. A job that might otherwise be a perfect fit for your lifestyle, career path, and finances may suddenly seem sinister, unfriendly, and a very bad mistake indeed. Workplace conflict can even make employees feel the need to seek greener pastures – meaning, a place free of such inner-personnel strife.

“Do not ever try to change your co-workers, especially those who are above you in the hierarchy of the workplace. It is a cardinal rule that people can change themselves, but none of us can change another. You are doomed to failure if you try to get your supervisor to see their flaws and change their ways. Learn to change what you can and accept what you cannot change.”
– Workplace Etiquette: How to Avoid Conflict in the Workplace, Mark Sichel, 2006

Workplace conflict can arise for a variety of reasons, but usually those reasons start out small and get blown out of proportion. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and experiences, and people react to triggers that are spoken and unspoken. Even another co-worker’s general appearance may cause conflict. More often than not, these conflicts are simply petty differences that get taken too far and could be easily have been resolved.

“Most often, poor communication and conflict resolution styles must be corrected and replaced with approaches that are more conducive to creating peace in the workplace and at home.”
– Workplace Etiquette: How to Avoid Conflict in the Workplace, Mark Sichel, 2006

A straightforward, honest talk is often the best way to defuse such conflicts. Unconfrontational honesty is always a good approach to resolve any situation. Workplace conflict is usually more of a waste of time than anything, and something that gets taken way too far. A little conflict with a co-worker should not mean a change in jobs, the disruption of your career, or even cause you to waste your time. Resolve these conflicts before they get carried too far, and hurt you professionally.

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