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  • Effective Ways to Approach Conflict and Difficult Conversations at Work

    11/29/17 7:45 AM | By :Exact Staff | Categories : Job Seekers | Leave a Comment
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    Disagreements. Squabbles. Confrontations.

    When people work with people, they disagree from time to time. But while a certain amount of “head bumping” is natural (even healthy), workplace conflict can quickly escalate into full-blown battles, leading to:

    • loss of synergy and productivity;
    • higher turnover and attrition (due to a toxic culture);
    • damage to your organization’s reputation and ability to recruit top talent.

    When turf disputes, policy disagreements or personality conflicts threaten an otherwise harmonious workplace, it can be tempting to sweep issues under the rug, point fingers or react emotionally. Defense mechanisms like these, however, can lead to disastrous consequences.

    But not on your watch.

    While conflict is inevitable, it doesn’t have to be destructive. In fact, with proper management, conflict can be quite healthy for a work group – fueling creative problem solving and improved work relationships.

    So, while you may not relish instigating an uncomfortable conversation to resolve a conflict at work, it’s best to grab the proverbial bull by the horns. Use Exact Staff’s suggestions to handle the situation professionally – and get the results you want:

    Be Direct, Yet Compassionate

    If the subject is serious, don’t beat around the bush. Skip the small talk and establish concerns from the outset. Remember, however, that feedback presented may be hard for the other person (or people) to hear. Lead the conversation by explaining that you want the best for all parties involved.

    Use Active Listening

    This key conflict resolution skill demonstrates that participants understand, and are concerned about, the other’s point of view. To employ active listening techniques, instruct everyone to:

    • Listen without judgment and reserve formulating responses until the other party has finished speaking.
    • Summarize and restate what the other person has said, probing for clarification.
    • Create responses with two components:  naming the feeling the other person is expressing, and stating the reason he feels that way (e.g., “It sounds like you’re irritated by John’s lateness.”).

    Keep Emotions in Check

    Don’t let frustration or anger derail efforts. If individuals start reacting emotionally, focus on solving the problem at hand. And if anyone loses their cool, take a quick break and remind participants that now is the time to stick to the facts and work on a solution – not vent.

    Never Assume

    Allow your employee(s) to present their side of the story and ask questions. By listening to what they say – without jumping to conclusions – you increase the likelihood that they’ll buy into the solutions you develop.

    Focus on Behaviors

    Keep the conversation centered on work behaviors, and never allow personal attacks, name-calling or sweeping generalities.

    Make Changes

    Once everyone has had a chance to present their side of the situation, discuss and commit to making changes necessary to resolving the conflict:

    • Have participants verbalize what others could do more of, less of, stop or start (again, focus on actions and behaviors).
    • Use an area of compromise as a starting point (i.e., is there some point on which everyone agrees?) If no area of agreement exists, focus on a common long-term goal and begin from there.
    • Determine what needs to be done, realistically, to achieve agreed-upon goals.
    • Come away from the discussion with concrete steps each participant will take toward resolving the conflict.

    Successfully managing conflict is far from easy, but the reward – a more harmonious work environment that frees employees to focus on doing amazing work – is well worth the effort.

    Need talented people who solve problems – instead of creating them?

    Exact Staff will refer candidates with the experience and soft skills to tackle your toughest problems and build a collaborative culture. Contact our national employment agency today to learn more.


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