Smart ways to manage work conflicts

LET'S FIND A SOLUTION: Workplace conflict resolution doesn't have to be reduced to fight or flight actions. By asking questions, managing egos and avoiding sarcasm, disagreements can be resolved amicably.


    Jul 01, 2014

    Smart ways to manage work conflicts

    WE EITHER shy away from workplace conflict or adopt an unacceptably assertive attitude. We think that you must either bully or be bullied.

    Actually, managing conflict at work has nothing to do with bullying. So aggression serves only to make the situation more stressful.

    Conflict is desirable when it is under control because it can be used positively, for change, growth and progress.

    The presence of conflict often demonstrates engaged and committed employees, who have their own opinion of which is the best solution to reach a common goal.

    Without conflict, life would be one big yawn and probably come to a halt.

    When you find yourself disagreeing with a co-worker, remember three things:


    1. You are almost certainly right. Coincidentally, that's the way the other party feels, too.

     2. The world/company/project is unlikely to come to an end as a result of one or other of your points of view prevailing.

     3. You think you have the same objectives. Try to confirm them at the start of the discussion. If your objectives differ, you must reconcile them or part company.


    Questions draw people together; statements separate them. Asking questions - and, more importantly, listening to answers - allows you to understand the other person's point of view and his thinking that leads to his opinion.

    Rephrasing the opposing point of view is also a good idea, especially if things are getting heated. For example, you can say: "Have I got this right? What you are saying is..."

    Then listen to the answer. What your antagonist is saying is often nearer to your views than you think.


    It helps to massage the ego of the person with whom you disagree. Do this subtly or it will be recognised as false.

    You can afford to be generous in your praise, especially if you are right. Words cost only thought.

    For example, a publishing company acquired a competitor of almost equal size. The acquirer was based in Asia, the competitor, in Los Angeles.

    Describing the behaviour as murder would have been more accurate than "merger", the word they used.

    It certainly appeared to be attempted murder on the part of the Asian company. The two rivals asked me to be their mentor.

    Both companies were successful. Both had strong chief executive officers. Both thought they should be CEO of the new joint business.

    I discussed their personal objectives with them, as well as their objectives for the company. They were remarkably similar. How did I get them working together when a common goal wouldn't?

    The answer was time.

    One was older than the other, rather more traditional and regarded himself as "senior" in every way. His personal ambitions were relatively short term.

    The younger one was interested in how much he could make in the longer term.

    Focusing on changing patterns of readership and developing technologies in digital publishing enabled the younger one to plan and work for the future, leaving his colleague to run the shorter-term, more-established publishing process.

    Common goals don't always have similar timetables.


     A most satisfying form of self-indulgence, sarcasm is usually not understood or convinces the other person that you are nuts.

    Searing wit is not well understood, but the intention to wound and denigrate is.

    So all you will have achieved is alienation without admiration - a waste of time. Write a book about it instead; you can be as sarcastic as you like in that.

    The writer is the chairman, CEO & founder mentor of Terrific Mentors International (