How Do You Deal
with Conflict at Work?
Have you ever
had a conflict at work?
If you answered
"no," you probably either work in a monastery where everyone has taken
a vow of silence, or you have only
recently joined the workforce.
Virtually everyone will experience
conflict with someone at work, whether it's with a co-worker, customer,
supplier, or even the boss.
That's because conflict is
inevitable. If you spend enough time interacting with other people, eventually
your wants, needs, or ideas are bound to be contrary to those of another
person. For example you have a conflict situation ...
isn't a problem. Problems result from the way people handle conflicts.
...if both you and a co-worker
want the same day off but only one of you can have it.
...if you need supplies delivered
today but your supplier can't get them to you until next week.
...if you want a customer to
buy a product for a particular price but they want a discount.
...if you want a raise but
your boss needs to cut costs in your department.
David W. Johnson,
author of Human Relations and Your Career, identifies five types
of conflict resolution styles. Notice which of the following conflict styles
is the one you typically use, and which ones are used by people you have
with conflict by avoiding it. If they can physically leave the situation,
they will. If they can't leave, they will tune out or refuse to talk about
it. This typically results in a lose-lose scenario. The turtle doesn't
get what they want, and the person they have the conflict with doesn't
get the problem resolved. However, this can be a useful way to deal with
conflict when the issue is minor.
deal with conflict by giving in. Because they want to be liked and to maintain
the relationship, a teddy bear lets the other person have their way. As
a result, the teddy bear doesn't get what he or she wants, and "loses"
while the other person "wins."
This can be
a useful way of dealing with conflict on occasion. In relationships, couples
will often take turns being the teddy bear. For example "I'll see the chick
flick with you this week if you'll come to the action adventure movie with
me next week." However, someone who always gives in at work may one day
feel they have had enough and announce "I quit."
with conflict by going on the attack. Their purpose in a conflict is to
satisfy their own needs by any means possible. Their behavior is aggressive
and they may use verbal attacks or manipulation. To a shark, the desired
outcome in a conflict is "I win, you lose" or "I win, I don't care what
happens to you."
If you are ever
in a conflict with a shark, you'll know it. After all, what happens in
nature when a shark meets a turtle? While it sounds like an unethical way
of dealing with conflict, there are situations where being a shark may
be appropriate. For example, if you are in an emergency situation or if
you are in a conflict with a shark, you might respond like a shark yourself.
Foxes deal with
conflict by trying to find a compromise solution. Their aim is to resolve
the conflict with both parties feeling they are getting at least some of
what they want. While this may seem like a win-win way of dealing with
conflict, in fact there is also a lose-lose element to it as both parties
typically have to give something up.
This a useful
way of dealing with conflict when a quick solution is needed, with at least
a partial win for both parties. For example, in the situation where you
and your co-worker both want the same day off, a compromise might be for
one of you to take the morning off and work the afternoon, while the other
takes the afternoon off and works the morning.
Johnson, the wisest way of dealing with most conflicts is to adopt the
behavior of the owl. Owls deal with conflict by collaborating. This means
both parties work together with the aim of coming up with a mutually satisfying
solution. The aim is to have a win-win.
While it's the
most desirable outcome, the reality is that it can take time to reach a
win-win solution, and you probably don't want to spend hours trying to
reach agreement about minor matters such as where to go for lunch.
No matter which
conflict style you use, we hope you win more than you lose.
Tag and Catherine Goulet
are authors of Dream
Careers and founders of FabJob Inc.
Visit www.FabJob.com to discover
how to break into the career of your dreams.