A diverse group of employees will include different combinations of personalities, work styles, and talents. One often overlooked difference between employees is their communication style, which can slightly vary from situation to situation but may remain consistent in each individual. Looking through the lens of communication and understanding different styles is one of the more important (and easy) strategies to prevent conflict in the workplace.
Strategies to Prevent Conflict in the Workplace
If we focus on 3 main communication types, we may start to understand how communication can make or break tension at work. If it’s your role to manage conflict in workplace environments, knowing these 3 types can help you navigate the resolution and even identify if your company culture celebrates one over the other. Those 3 types are: passive, assertive, and aggressive. You may already identify yourself as having one of these styles, but learning how this can impact relationships, including those at work, can help make that information a helpful tool in avoiding or resolving conflict with a coworker.
The Passive Communicator
Someone who defaults to passive communication may have learned early in their life to shut down or surrender when there is conflict, and maybe even when there isn’t. They may struggle to accept their own personal rights to ask for what they need and fear being judged or facing rejection if they speak up. When we’re passive in our communication, we tend to stifle our own voice. This can come out in ineffective communication methods, like making indirect judgmental comments or even non-verbals like an old fashioned eye roll. This can spark tension with anyone who notices, but beyond how passivity impacts others in the relationship, the passive communicator may have some unresolved emotions that can build over time when their needs aren’t being addressed. This can sometimes mean the passive communicator will turn into an aggressive communicator once they’ve had enough.
The Aggressive Communicator
The aggressive communicator learned to use anger, blame, or withdrawal to mitigate workplace conflict. They might influence others through fear, shame, or other aversive means which can be a spark for any conflict kindling lying around. Aggressive communicators may start out with more passivity but become aggressive once their anger kicks in and they feel powerless over the situations they’re in. Or they may just only know how to let their needs by known through combative methods. Aggressive communication tends to work against strategies to prevent conflict in the workplace, so working directly with these folks and showing them a more effective way to get their needs met can be helpful.
The Assertive Communicator
The assertive communicator meets somewhere between passive and aggressive. This communicator tends to be empathetic to self and others and can express their needs with hope for change but without demands. They may use more effective means of speaking up, such as “I” statements which allow them to take ownership of their feelings without casting judgment upon others or dismissing their feelings altogether. Since communication and conflict resolution in the workplace go hand-in-hand, this style allows individuals to feel empowered rather than powerless, which can change how they respond to, and try to de-escalate, conflict.
Employing strategies to prevent conflict in the workplace takes more than just understanding different communication styles, but it’s a good place to start. If you’re struggling to get a handle on a situation at work, get support from neutral and experienced professionals who can diffuse rather than ignite the tension. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today to get the right solutions for your team.