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Conquering Conflict Management

How to handle disagreements

As women, we are often taught from the time we are children that conflict is bad and something to be avoided. At the minimum, conflict makes many of us uncomfortable and unsure of ourselves. This unease can put us at a professional disadvantage because conflict in the workplace is an inevitable part of doing business and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, appropriately expressed and properly managed conflict can actually be productive and can build relationships in the long run.
 
If you are in a management position, you’ll likely be called to handle two types of conflict; disagreements between yourself and others and differences within your own workgroup. In both cases, there are some general rules that apply.
 
The first step to take when conflict occurs is to switch into information gathering mode. From a neutral stance, gather as many details about the conflicting sides as you can. Simply asking questions and seeking clarification can give you needed information and can often unravel an issue and help settle the conflict. At the least, further probing often helps people to think more carefully about their positions.
 
Try to determine if the conflict is based on personality differences or issue differences before you proceed. If the conflict is personality based, you’ll need to adjust your communication style and possibly deal with some separate problems or concerns in addition to the one causing the disagreement. If the conflict is truly based on a particular issue alone, you are free to concentrate on just the facts surrounding that issue.
 
Regardless of the source of the conflict, never react in anger. Responding angrily will almost always result in regrets and could hurt your career. It will almost certainly lessen a person’s opinion of you and your abilities. Even if a co-worker has lost control, keep your calm. If necessary, walk away from the situation and give yourself time to think things through and time to gain your composure. Remind yourself that most conflicts are not personal, and focus on the facts and issues instead of on personalities.
 
Emotional intelligence and maturity are critical leadership traits. In times of conflict, separate your emotions from the issues at hand. Remember, emotions do not solve problems—they add to them. Instead of focusing on the way that you feel, focus on what needs to be done.
 
Another important thing to remember is that conflict can’t always be settled in one neat, tidy meeting, regardless of how strong a leader you are. Sometimes it’s best to agree to disagree for a while, and to see how circumstances evolve. Sometimes decisions that would solve the conflict simply can’t be made within a certain timeframe. Consider whether it’s best to just table a conflict for a while and move on without fully resolving the issue.
 
Instead of viewing conflict as a negative force, remember that conflict gives leaders and rising professionals a chance to shine. Tough situations provide the opportunity to showcase technical skills and knowledge as well as emotional intelligence and maturity. Instead of viewing conflict negatively, focus on the positive things that can result.
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