Dealing constructively with work conflicts

Just like in private life, conflicts are part of everyday life at work: people have different tastes, opinions, and ways to approach tasks. If there's a bad mood, a thoughtless remark or misleading behavior, problems are inevitable. Professional conflict management is required so that discussions and misunderstandings don't turn into tangible disputes.

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Colleague A submitted his vacation without prior agreement with his team and secured the days; colleague B doesn't complete her tasks on time despite the clear deadline; and colleague C interferes in projects without being asked. While employers may dream that all employees get along perfectly and provide the best possible service for the company, such an idea is utopian. Conflicts are inevitable and natural. Differences of opinion are essential elements of a functioning communication — provided they can be shared in a healthy and proactive way.

These are the basic rules of work conflict 

As soon as an argument arises, many withdraw and avoid the unpleasant discussion, while others instead provoke disagreements and enjoy them. Still others take a conflict personally and switch from the factual and emotional level. When that happens, a good working atmosphere is lost and work can become undesirable for all. The general rule is: conflict management can be trained.

The following basic rules are essential for this:

Personal attacks or comments below the belt are no-gos.

Only in this way can both viewpoints be understood.

Even if the other opinion is not shared or approved, it should be respected.

Even if the opinions are different, there are often similarities between the two perspectives. Anyone who is actively looking for it can use it as a basis for finding a solution.

Dealing constructively with conflicts can bring about positive changes because different opinions make life, as well as everyday work, more colorful and diverse. They help find the best possible way to accomplish a task. Differences of opinion thus serve as a source of impetus for creative solutions that can offer undreamt-of entrepreneurial opportunities.

Prevention: The right strategy is everything

However, some disputes are superfluous and should therefore be avoided from the outset. Conflict prevention is about developing a feeling for a burgeoning conflict and nipping it in the bud. Proactive action and the right conversation strategy are required here. These include, for example, a functioning flow of information, the art of formulating criticism constructively, mutual respect and forgiving mistakes.

Of course, there are also serious conflicts that place a particular strain on the working atmosphere. This can be bullying, xenophobia or sexual harassment. Such points must not be tolerated in any company or by any employee. A company agreement that regulates the handling of these issues can be an effective instrument for successful conflict prevention.

Text: Elisabeth Stockinger (originally in German)

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