Handling Conflict In The Workplace

February 15, 2013

Handling Conflict at Work

Not everyone you work with or work for is looking out for your best interest.  Shocker, right?  That means you will often find yourself in situations where your fight or flight response kicks in.  I found myself in this situation just last week (and I fought).

It was painful.  I was being attacked for no good reason.  Normally I pride myself on keeping my cool under pressure.  I often juggle many tasks without showing stress.  But add personal conflict to the mix and things change.

I felt my blood pressure rise.  My face got warm.  My back tightened.  My heart started to race.  My voice became aggressive.  This wasn’t good, but I didn’t even realize what was happening.  “That pisses me off!!”, I said (along with some other choice words).

There I was, Mr. positivity, standing in front of three or four others, pretty much destroying my own credibility.  Don’t get me wrong, I WAS being unduly attacked and blamed for a project that was going south.  But that didn’t excuse my reaction.

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Truth be told, I so often expect the best from everyone that I didn’t see it coming.  Especially when I work with a new team, I find value in assuming the best from everyone.  However, I’m hear to tell you that I may have been a bit naive on this topic.

I still firmly believe in expecting the best from everyone, but some people just don’t care.

I’ve learned a lesson since I first wrote this that requires me to make an edit here.  Sometimes, it isn’t that people don’t care.  It may just appear that they don’t care.  Maybe they had a bad day or maybe they don’t care about the same issues that you do.  Either way, people are complex.  They care about some things and care less about others; that doesn’t make them bad.  I have to be careful in making judgments like that, because they do more harm than good.

My reaction in this setting did little more than bring the attention back to me.  My little hissy-fit didn’t help fix the problem.  Nor did it change the people that blamed me.

In conflict, brute force may get the job done, but it can create an ugly mess.

The next day after all of this went down and I had a chance to sleep on it, I realized my mistake.  Of course I apologized where needed, but my rant hadn’t moved the ball forward much at all.  I also realized that my relationship with these people just took three steps back.

You may be shocked that I would even consider having a relationship with them, but let’s be real here…I don’t have a choice.  If we are to complete this project together, I can’t consider them an enemy.  I may have to stay guarded and use wisdom in our interactions in the future, but I still have to cross bridges with them.  I still need them on my team.

So the next time this happens, I need to remember to breathe.  I need to stop myself and regroup before responding.  I need to ask better questions and not be fearful of being wrong.  I need to turn the other cheek and humble myself.  I need to stay strong and can keep my dignity.

Question: So what about you…how have you botched a conflict at work?



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