It’s hard to deny that when several personalities, work styles, and responsibilities are meant to work together under stressful circumstances, confrontation is inevitable. Confrontation can start small and stay small, depending on the circumstances, including how everyone involves reacts. But confrontation can also be the breeding ground for large-scale conflict which can have negative impacts to work culture and the business. As every employee works with other individuals in situations where disputes can occur, it’s important that every employee knows how to handle confrontation in the workplace.
How to Handle Confrontation in the Workplace
When disagreements are vocalized, there are many ways to react; collaborative, stoic, defensive, passive, assertive, or aggressive are a few ways one may respond. You may see from that range of adjectives that some responses have the ability to quell the disagreement while others can escalate it into something bigger. Learning how to handle confrontation in the workplace effectively can help reduce instances of escalation and keep disagreements collaborative and productive. In addition to conflict coaching in the workplace, there are some things team members can do to stay ahead of things rather than get stuck solving workplace conflict when things have intensified:
A passive response may include one that ignores the problem directly and instead works around it. For instance, someone may ignore the person expressing the disagreement while talking about them to others behind their back, including coworkers or managers. This type of avoidance typically creates deeper tensions, includes more people in the problem, and is likely to lead to more conflict rather than a solution. Instead, try speaking directly to the person the disagreement is stemming from so that there can be a calm exchange of experiences and ideas.
When we experience emotional upset in any kind of relationship, even a work relationship, we may fill in the narrative of the event with our own perspective. This can include name-calling or making broad statements about this person “always” doing this or “never” doing that. This just keeps the emotional tension brewing but doesn’t do anything for the solution. Plus, making overgeneralizations or applying black-and-white thinking often leads to incorrect analysis of events. So remain objective, using words that don’t relate to emotion and are not personal opinions. Instead, name the events as someone observing it from the outside.
Prevention of conflict in the workplace is a noble goal and one way to decrease instances of dispute tension is to bring in new skills to the team. Conflict training in the workplace can help address communication norms that have developed within the company that may not be in service to teamwork. Effective communication doesn’t stop at how we verbalize our needs and experiences. It extends to how we listen to others do the same. De-escalating confrontation so it doesn’t develop into complicated conflict requires effective and active listening for two main reasons; 1 – it can soothe the emotions in the room as people will begin to feel heard and validated and 2 – it helps every one get clear on the problems from all perspectives so a well-rounded solution can be found. Conflict coaching can help provide effective techniques that can bring about positive, long-term change.
Learning how to handle confrontation in the workplace doesn’t stop there, but if you’re struggling with these initial steps, reach out for support. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today to get the right solutions for your team.