7 common workplace conflicts and how to handle them
25th Nov 2016
A demanding boss, difficult clients, obstructive colleagues, the workplace can be fraught with problems. So, what should you do next time you're faced with a difficult situation? The aim of this blog is to help you reach a conflict resolution.
Identifying the source of the conflict and trying to manage a resolution which aims to resolve further conflict. This is a key skill needed in the workplace to have a good work environment.
Here are 7 common workplace conflicts and how to handle them:
1. You clash with a colleague
You are not paid to like everyone at work – but you are paid to work constructively with them. Remain professional and adult, focusing on the workplace issues that are being discussed, not the personality.
It may be that you have a different communication style – perhaps one of you is a more logical thinker, while the other is more intuitive. Think about how you could make adjustments to make your communication together more effective. It could be time to sit down with a mediator to find a conflict resolution if this clash is disrupting working getting done. Is it worth potentially losing your job over?
2. The boss is too demanding
If your boss’s demands are causing you serious stress, then you either need to tackle it or find another job. Arrange a meeting with your boss to discuss their priorities and what they would like from you. This is your opportunity to talk about what you may not be able to deliver. Far better to have this conversation proactively rather than after a project or task has failed.
Is this new behaviour or you’re the only person being asked too much of?
Ensure you have all the facts before approaching the boss. If everyone is feeling the same stress, this environment could be more challenging to reach a conflict resolution. Approach any hostile situations with the boss in a smart manor, after all you don’t want to poke the hornet’s nest if you could lose your job. Outline what you want to achieve from a conflict resolution and then discuss how to achieve it with a colleague or someone’s opinion you respect.
3. A senior colleague steals the credit for your work
In this case, conflict prevention is better than cure.
Make sure you cc other people on your progress updates and results. This is often easier in a smaller company where you interact with people in other departments more frequently, but you can also use a new project as an excuse to get your name known to people across the company by emailing them at the start or halfway through a project and asking for their contributions or feedback as appropriate.
That way, your name becomes associated with that piece of work.
But, they’ve stolen my work and I haven’t used conflict prevention methods.
Depending on the senior colleague it can become a sensitive situation on how to approach the situation. Especially when the senior colleague doesn’t recognise that they have stolen your credit. This could be a lesson learnt and as you go forward try to brand everything you do as your own, cc people in, talk about what work you’re doing when socialising with colleagues, make more suggestions in brainstorms and make your voice heard. The best way to avoid further conflict, is to prevent it with these strategies
4. The client/boss makes new demands on a daily basis – and the brief gets ever bigger
If you’ve been assigned a client from your line manager, let them know and ask for advice in prioritising tasks or on how best to manage that client’s expectations. If it’s your own manager who’s increasing your workload, you’ll need to manage upwards.
Let your manager know what other projects you’re working on and ask them to prioritise your increased workload. Don’t settle for an “it’s all a priority” type reply. Go prepared with a daily or weekly overview of your activities, with percentage of time spent on each activity, client or project, and ask for advice on how to recalibrate your workload. This preparation is key to prevent conflict which could arise with your current clients or from this new client assigned. This situation can cause you neglect your duties which is why preparation and allocating time to tasks is the key to conflict prevention.
5. The promised bonus or promotion never comes
This could be for all sorts of reasons, not all of them sinister.
If the company or sector is performing badly, you might need to wait, for example, but you might also be perceived as underperforming. Weigh your results against your targets. Have you met or exceeded them? You’ll need to make sure there is a valid reason for the company to reward you.
If there is, ask for a meeting with your boss and put forward your case. If your manager refuses, ask what you need to do to get the bonus or promotion and within what time frame. This is a strategic move to prevent any further conflict which could arise. Deal with this conflict head on otherwise it will sit on you which could cause you to slack at work which could mean the promotion or bonus will really come.
6. An important client is difficult to work with and often rude
Sometimes client relationships are all about managing rudeness in order to get a result. Look at the economics of the relationship. How can you manage the conflict effectively?
Is being ground down worth the time you spend grovelling? If 20 minutes with one client reduces your sales performance for the following half day, you’re probably investing time in the wrong place. If the client takes liberties but provides continued good business, the level of difficulty is the price you have to pay.
Sometimes you can shock or educate clients into a more human response, but usually they just like abusing the buyer-seller relationship. If the client is unpleasant, buys little and rarely, and is a poor payer, move on. Weigh up the personal difficulty vs the business worth.
7. You’ve been promoted and your team mates are turning up late and taking liberties
When someone is promoted from the ranks it’s natural to test boundaries, so don’t take it too personally. Yes, of course they will assume that you are going to turn a blind eye or find it difficult to exert discipline.
If the liberties taken are not acceptable to your organisation, they’re not acceptable to you. Throwing the rule book at someone makes it difficult to get on with them on an everyday basis. So don’t lay down the law or be the big boss, but do two things. First, refer to the behaviour or incident and say that as it’s a first occasion you won’t do anything about it, but as it’s now your job to notice these things and do something about them, can they do you a modest favour and turn up on time?
Explaining that they need to help you to do your job properly will go down better than reading the riot act.
Remember that you’re improving your professional development is more important than trying to keep everyone happy. Be lenient where you can, as no one wants a difficult manager and you still want to be approachable. Try to find a happy medium to prevent further conflict.
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