Whether it’s miscommunication about a project deadline or butting emails over anachronistic operating procedure conflict is an immutable fact of our daily office lives. Conflict can, in fact, become so commonplace that we begin to approach each confrontation with the same knee-jerk preconceptions.
Peg Pickering, author of How to Handle Conflict & Confrontation, believes that in order to maximize your conflict-resolving potential you should first dismantle some wrongheaded but longstanding beliefs. Here’s her list:
1: Conflict, if left alone, will take care of itself.
Like your child crying in public, conflict is tempting to ignore. But, left alone, conflict will fester, morphing into something much less manageable and more corrosive.
2: Confronting an issue or a person is always unpleasant.
Simply untrue, Pickering writes. “Confronting an issue or person simply means putting the items in question on the table to be addressed.” In and of themselves, disagreements don’t require sniping, bad-mouthing or other verbal slingshots. View your next conflict as an opportunity to examine a problem (from different perspectives, of course!) and arrive at a mutually beneficial conclusion.
3: The presence of conflict in an organization is a sign of a poor manager.
Conflicts are as naturally occurring as inclement weather. Quality of management has little to no bearing on their existence. Managerial skill can instead be measured by the manner in which conflicts themselves are handled.
4: Conflict is a sign of low concern for the organization.
Pickering points out that conflict often reflects a high level of investment in an organization. An issue or idea becomes the centerpiece of conflict when multiple individuals care about the result.
5: Anger is always negative and destructive.
Simply stated, anger gets a bad rap. Pickering notes that at lower levels of conflict, anger can be cathartic, letting calmer heads prevail as the discussion evolves into its problem-solving stages. However, Pickering warns, anger at higher levels of conflict is almost always counterproductive. Generally speaking, the higher the level of stress, the more imperative it is to keep your emotions under wraps.