How to Effectively Navigate Conflict in The Workplace

Most people on average spend 8-10 hours working, some even stretch as much as 12 hours. In times of Covid-19 where one day seamlessly melts into another, there is barely any distinction between one work day and another. Compound that with other factors like home-schooling, caring for elderly relatives, re-doing the apartment to be suitable for work and worst of all staying sane if you’re in lockdown alone and people are strained beyond belief.

In these circumstances mild work conflict can easily escalate into something unnecessary. Misguided frustration can spiral out of control and direct itself at your nearest colleague. How then can we avoid giving in to the temptation of losing our head over what annoys us?

Understand the Situation

First and foremost, it is important to recognise that conflict is as much internal as it is external. When we feel annoyance towards someone or their actions, we are most likely depleted in spirit which in simple language is, exhausted and burnt-out. In that scenario, refrain from reacting in the moment and tuck your annoyance away for later. This will be the toughest part but make sure you do it, this is the mark of a mature individual.

When the day’s labours are over, sit with yourself and write down what irritated you. Pin point the exact sentence or behaviour that triggered you and write down why. You see, things appear much clearer when we write them. The act of putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard, creating words with each movement activates in our brain a conscious reaction to what we are writing. The act of taking time to reason out what you feel and why you think you feel it, lets you decide whether your reaction is warranted or impulsive. If you come to no conclusion, take some time for yourself and take it now. Take a sick day or several the very next day and do something that generates joy within you. A day for your mental health is no different from taking a day for your physical health.

Re-visit and Pick Carefully

When you feel better, re-visit your write-up and think about whether it still annoys you. Do not take yourself back in time to that moment, that will attach you to your depleted self. Re-visit the situation from your energised self and see if it still matters to you. If not, great you can move on but if yes then think about whether this is significant enough to pursue. The way to judge significance is to imagine that once you pursue discussion or action on this you cannot raise objection to anything for a year to two years.

Someone who needs to be seen as successful at work is expected to handle all situations independently, anonymously and effectively. If someone tries to get a reaction out of you, you are expected to be above such provocation. Pick your battles with extreme caution.

Dealing with It

So, you have carefully considered the situation, assessed your feelings and decided this is indeed a situation that merits attention. There can be a variety of reasons you may decide to deal with it, all of them are valid as long as they further your image as a mature, responsible and rational adult. Now, it’s time to decide who your audience ought to be and how the message will be delivered.

Before organising any time to discuss your point, structure it. Not after, not in parallel, plan what you will say and how you will say it before you do anything else. Structure your point carefully and constructively leaving emotion out of it. The workplace is no place for emotion, we are there to do a job and to do it well. Go as far as to write your verbal script on how you will begin, make impactful points to make and how you will conclude Consider other people’s responses and structure your points accordingly. If this feels theatrical, you’re on the right track. Whilst being yourself works in most situations, sometimes to make an impact one has to step into another persona.

And finally……If all of this feels overwhelming, do nothing. Missing one opportunity to assert yourself will cause no harm but retracting words and remedying the ramifications of a quick reaction will be a long road.