How to Manage Conflict and Negotiation in the Workplace

Managing conflict and negotiation in the workplace is an important task that’s easier accomplished when workplaces have a company culture that celebrates effective communication. Effective communication is the key to preventing conflict before it starts. This is an opportunity to supply your employees with the tools they need to work more collaboratively and support each other’s ideas rather than respond defensively and trigger conflict.

Conflict and Negotiation in the Workplace

Negotiating is a common communication tactic, one we often attribute to big deals or car purchases. But negotiations happen on a smaller scale quite often. Coworkers may need to negotiate on schedules, task distribution, idea exchanges, and deadlines, whether they know they’re doing it or not. Another big thing that is often negotiated without recognition is the value system from which we each operate, work, and engage interpersonally. Negotiation can be a helpful tactic in reducing interpersonal conflict in the workplace. Here are some reasons why.

The Polarization of Black and White Thinking

When we talk about conflict and negotiation in the workplace, we have to mention the rigid either/or, black and white thinking that many of us fall for every day. Conflict can often arise because people are unwilling to see that both points of view or “sides” of the argument have a little bit of truth and a little bit of value. Instead, we hold the idea that our perspective is the truth (right!) and the other person’s is false (wrong!). When we think strongly that one absolute truth is correct and are unable to look at or even consider the other end, we rigidly identify with that one idea and our behavior tends to be more extreme.

Narrow Perspective

Conflict can arise as a response to the way we see the world, our work, the people we love, and even ourselves. When our view is narrow, it means we are less likely to see the limitations of our own perspective, or the advantages of another perspective. Cultivating a company culture that acknowledges and addresses this in a normalized way can help reduce conflict.

A broad view can provide the ability to consider different opinions and consider that the point you reject or oppose might have some truth or value in it, especially to someone else. A narrow view limits your access to values beyond the ones you already have and makes it challenging to explore new ideas and new ways of being. Knowing the difference and actively working to ensure you’re broadening your perspective is an important step in knowing how to solve conflicts at work.

Lack of Active Listening

We’ve discussed the importance of assertive communication in previous posts. One component of assertive communication that’s often overlooked is the importance of listening. Oftentimes we listen just fine but we do so with rushed or stressed ears and we don’t get all the information we’re meant to. Active listening can help significantly when managing employee conflict because it can reduce the emotional tension around someone not feeling heard, validated, or respected. Assertive communication is an effective component of interpersonal success, asking for what you want with respect and empathy. But assertive communication doesn’t only include what you say and how you say it, it includes how you listen and respond to what you’ve heard.

Fighting the Wrong Battles

We may communicate effectively and still not get what we want in the end. Remember that in a relationship, professional or personal, each person has their own sets of values, needs, and objectives for self-respect; a “yes” or compromise isn’t always guaranteed. This could be especially true when the person we hold conflict with is a person of authority, like a boss, rather than a peer.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has a concept called Radical Acceptance which, contrary to what your defense mechanism may say, doesn’t require that you agree with undesirable outcomes or behaviors in others, it simply means you stop trying to change what’s happened and instead live in the present. This can help reduce the tension that often sparks the need for conflict resolution.

Conflict and negotiation in the workplace are tough topics to talk about. Establishing a culture of mutual respect can help. Get help from experienced professionals who can optimize your company culture and promote healthy communication. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today to get the right solutions for your team.

Conflict and Negotiation in the Workplace