Managing conflict

Conflict at work is not a new problem. Most disputes and conflicts can be resolved in an amicable way. Learning how to deal with disputes or conflicts that arise in the workplace is important to ensure you have an enjoyable and productive career. Disputes arise when two or more people perceive that their interests, needs and goals are incompatible.

Conflict resolution can be achieved by learning a few simple steps. Before you can resolve a dispute you need to have agreement about what the dispute is actually about:

  • Conduct a non-judgemental investigation to ascertain the answers to the following questions:
    • Are you sure you know what the problem actually is?
    • Who are all the people involved in this dispute?
    • Is there anything relevant from the past which may be driving this dispute?
    • What is the motivation for this problem?
    • What are the obstructions to resolution of the dispute?

This preliminary work is an investment because while the nature of the conflict might be self-evident, e.g. cost of treatment or misdiagnosis; there may be unmanifested issues or hidden agendas. Almost all conflicts have visible and invisible aspects.

Be suspicious if a relatively minor dispute leads to an extreme reaction, a minor problem seems incapable of a solution or the relationship you have with the person is characterised by repeated minor disputes. In these cases you may find that the real issue has not yet surfaced.

  • Reflect on how the situation that provoked the conflict was perceived by the other party and what emotions the perception stimulated. Approaches to conflict resolution that focuses entirely on “facts” are unlikely to be effective, because humans have feelings, and feelings underlie most conflicts. Perceptions, not reality fuel them and conflicts exist because facts and reality are perceived in a way that provokes negative feelings. The stronger the feeling, the greater the risk of conflict.
  • Talk through the issue in a calm and factual manner to find a resolution to the conflict, preferably with a “win-win” for both parties.
  • Once agreement has been reached on a suitable resolution, confirm the steps to be undertaken to ensure that both parties are in agreement and understand the agreement that have been reached

In need of emergency help?

Help is available at any time, day or night on Lifeline 13 11 14 and the AVA Counselling Service 1300 687 327.