How would you handle conflict at work if it was a result of you advocating for your or the business’s needs? Would you hope the conflict would simmer on its own and skip direct involvement? Would you jump in right away and start dictating solutions? Would you trust your colleagues and their skills enough to know that conflict and challenging conversations can have productive results? As we explore examples of avoiding conflict in the workplace, we’ll learn that avoiding conflict or staying silent, while instantly gratifying, hardly gives us the outcome we hope for.
Examples of Avoiding Conflict in the Workplace
Conflict scenarios at work inevitably arise, sometimes unexpectedly. They can start small and peaceful, with healthy tension aiming to create change or innovation. But while conflict can be productive and helpful, it can also cause stress and concern which leads many to avoid it.
As humans, we have a primal need to be included in our communities and that need doesn’t go away simply because we’re modernized. This being said, conflict at our workplace, where we spent most of our time collaborating with other people, can cause us to feel expelled or ostracized from the group. This can make our automatic response to conflict one of avoidance. If we can put off having difficult conversations, challenging the status quo, or advocating for our values, we can feel a part of the group a little longer. But examples of avoiding conflict in the workplace can show us that this doesn’t create the desired effect in the long-run.
Exchanging Difficult Feedback
Imagine you and your boss experienced some unspoken tension in your last staff meeting. They reach out to you for a one-on-one to discuss any issues that may be resting between both of you. You get angry at the request for a one-on-one and plan either to go into that meeting finally telling your boss off, or to stay quiet and pretend you agree with their feedback, which will only make you angrier over time.
Understanding common factors affecting conflict can reduce one’s need to avoid conflict overall. Awareness about the root cause of a dispute can not only help put things into perspective, it can help you figure out where the problem actually exists, and therefore, where to solve it. In this example, the issue wasn’t with the staff meeting or the pending one-on-one but rather something deeper lying between the employee and manager. If feedback can’t be expressed effectively between them, the problem will get worse.
Speaking Up on Important Issues
Imagine that one day, you notice that your colleagues have been offered promotions and opportunities to grow in their professional development, but your boss always skips over you when considering candidates. You know your output and work ethic matches your colleagues, and you grow upset feeling as though you’re being overlooked. You decide it may be too confrontational to ask your boss if there’s something you can do to get the same support as your teammates, so you stay quiet and eventually grow resentful.
Speaking up about a problem can inherently cause conflict, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Learning how to deal with staff conflict effectively can make all the difference in your confidence to speak up about challenging things. Conflict coaching can provide tools and insights to employees that make conflict productive rather than destructive. With the right kind of skills and coaching, individuals can feel not only more comfortable effectively asserting their needs, they can also manage their intellectual and emotional reactions to difficult feedback, making way for positive change.
Resolving an Active Dispute
Final example: You’re on a small team and two of your colleagues have been making passive insults to each other all week, growing increasingly frustrated with each other’s work styles. Individually, they’ve both come to you to complain about the other person. You want to avoid conflict so you nod along politely without saying too much. Eventually without realizing it, you unintentionally put yourself in the middle of the conflict, a position you now have to handle directly as things escalate.
Conflict avoidance may sound like the most peaceful approach, but it can actually cause more problems later on, as needs and opinions fester among employees and tensions rise over time. Addressing issues immediately can allow them to be solved rather than suppressed and saved for later when they will inevitably arise. Plus being more direct with your involvement will prevent people from assuming that your silence implies collusion.
If these examples of avoiding conflict in the workplace should teach you anything, it’s that being proactive and directly addressing disputes is critical. But you don’t have to handle it on your own. Get support from neutral and experienced professionals who can diffuse rather than ignite the tension at work. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today to get the right solutions for your team.