Managing Conflict at Work

What is it that makes some people difficult to work with? Is it me or is it them? The truth is of course that we can all be difficult and sometimes it is the clash of behaviours which raises conflict.

The behaviours that we see individuals produce in conflicts reflect what that person has learned in life. They tend to view new situations through the lens they have developed as they have grown. Approaches that have generally worked for them will be adopted and before long it becomes the tried and tested response.

It is not easy for any of us to change those responses as we know they worked in the past.

Typically psychologists describe these behaviours as being;

  • Avoiding – we tend to step away from any potential conflict.
  • Accommodating – we tend to put up with any conflict, yes is the answer.
  • Compromising – we tend to look for a deal to solve the issue.
  • Competing – we see the situation as win-lose and are determined to be the winner.
  • Collaborating – we tend to look for a solution that meets both parties.

These preferences are all ok. None of them is necessarily right or wrong, and in different situations they all can work. The problem is when we start over-relying on one or two approaches. By doing this we may miss out on a better way of resolving the situation.

The key is to try different approaches and to reflect on what happens. For example, people who are generally accommodating may tend to say “yes” a lot and end up feeling somewhat used and taken advantage of.

Although not easy to do, the challenge for them is to start try different approaches, focusing on putting their own interests first. As Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Over time we can then develop different and alternative strategies to complement our existing approaches.

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