As Stephen R. Covey, author of Principle Centered Leadership said, “effective communication is built on the cement of trust, and trust is based on trustworthiness, not politics.” Open and effective communication requires confidence as well as skill. This confidence allows you to confront uncomfortable issues, politics and conflict in the workplace.
Conflict in business is inevitable. Every individual has their own methodology and working style. Coworkers do what they do for their own reasons–not yours. However, there are times that other individuals’ words or actions can be harmful to you or infringe on your rights as an employee. Differences of opinion between coworkers can be both useful and productive, but when clashes turn ugly, conflict can be harmful.
When a colleague’s agenda is seemingly opposed to your own, it can be tempting to demonize him. This is a natural response, but not a particularly productive one. In fact, doing so undermines your ability to exert influence and instill trust. Find your empathy instead. Eliminate back-channel communications and go directly to the offending party.
Go out of your way to understand their processes and what they need from you. Sit down and talk about their cares and concerns. Build on the foundation of common ground. You may find that the source of your conflict is actually an area of mutual interest and turn this potentially destructive situation into an opportunity for creativity and enhanced performance.
Many people find confrontation difficult. In fact, conflict avoidance is a common trait in most corporate workplaces. Unfortunately, steering clear of disagreements and leaving things unsaid creates unnecessary complexity and needless anxiety. Failure to communicate willingly drives the conflict underground, only to have it resurface in another fashion. It also empowers the person you’re interacting with to continue their harassment and heighten your stress.
When confronting your offender, use positive communication. Describe the behavior or results you would view as useful and productive. Communicating these behaviors or results is critical and fundamental to building clarity in your expectations. Talk about your desire to build a strong network, your values and your goals. If the situation begins to go awry, communicate more…but you must do your part. Be proactive, not reactive. You have a responsibility to accept feedback. Turn up the reception, not the volume.
When asking someone to change their behavior, it’s easy to become nervous and emotional-especially if you’re angry and hurt. Keep emotions on a professional level by practicing in advance what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it and anticipating responses that might cause you to respond in a defensive way.
It is important to be transparent with yourself regarding your real motive before engaging in conflict resolution. Are you are searching for a corrective action to the problem or looking to identify the negative characteristics of another? Will this process built trust or tear it down? Confront what needs confronting professionally and assertively.
When conflict gets in the way of your communication, practice these valuable tips:
- Return to your core values. Proactive communication responds based on values. Reactive communication responds based on emotions.
- Evaluate what went wrong. Think about your role in the situation and be accountable for you own behavior in the conflict.
- Strategically plan how you will address the conflict or issue and approach the individual(s) involved.
- Talk it out. Focus on personal accountability by admitting where you contributed to the situation.
- Offer suggestions for getting beyond the conflict.
- Reaffirm your desire for an effective working relationship.
- Eliminate the change of repeating the conflict.
Lastly, before you address your colleague, set the stage. Conduct the conversation in private so that you won’t be overheard and create defensiveness on the part of the person your talking with. If you don’t have access to a private office, borrow a conference room or request that the person join you in a location away from the office. Bring your courage, convictions and compassion…and you’re sure to succeed.