Is conflict in the workplace a good thing or something that should be avoided? As a career coach, I often work with clients who are caught up in some type of conflict at work including personality and style differences or clashing opinions and competition for recognition, jobs or resources.
Let’s face it, there are some people who thrive on conflict and love to argue, even picking fights just to fight. They need to be the top dog. They could be bullies or they may have cultural or family roots where conflict is part of their daily life.
Other people are very uncomfortable with conflict. They shy away or withdraw from those situations, get bowled over, cave in or let issues fester hoping they’ll go away. These folks can be overly accommodating or make bad decisions just to smooth things over.
Both of these extremes can sabotage your career success and keep you from moving to the next level.
There’s healthy conflict, and there’s unhealthy conflict. Over 25+ years as a manager I learned that disagreements, debate and, yes, even arguing can be part of a healthy business environment. Getting different perspectives and approaches onto the table is often key for making big and important decisions. It can spark creativity and help ferret out the best solutions. It doesn’t have to pit people against each other or leave wounded bodies by the side of the road.
To be successful in any endeavor, you need to be able to handle conflict well. Here are some suggestions for handling healthy conflict:
Strive to create win/win situations
If your current environment is healthy, the key to being successful, even if you’re aren’t naturally comfortable with conflict is to strive for win/wins and to focus on the problem or decision at hand, not the people.
Acknowledge style differences
In 2013 I wrote a post Navigating Conflicts At Work about how style differences could be a source of conflict. However, if you have a Champion mindset, meaning you’re capable, strong and confident, you’ll figure how to utilize people’s differences; for example if you have strengths in one area and someone else has strengths in another area, you’ll put aside your differences and figure out how to partner.
Understand your self
If you’re not comfortable with conflict, acknowledge this about yourself and strive to understand the basis for these feelings. You can probably trace it back to your family environment. These issues can run deep, so tread gently.
Find a role model
Pay attention without judgment to how others handle these situations especially if you work with people who handle conflict constructively. See if you can find some behaviors to model.
If you work in an environment dominated by the people who love to fight or where the culture and organization rewards conflict and unhealthy competition, you’re in a no-win situation. If that’s the case, my advice is to chart an exit strategy.
However, if you work in a healthy business environment, one way to position yourself as a leader and move up to the next level is to be able to produce results and engage constructively in those situations where everyone does not agree.
There are many ways we sabotage our own success. To get more strategies and tools for identifying and stopping your self-sabotaging behaviors. download my free e-book, Get Out Of Your Own Way To Get What You Want.
About Pam: As a Career Success Coach, I help individuals and teams tap into their strengths and potential, eliminate self-sabotaging behaviors, think and execute strategically, and get more success and fulfillment from their careers. You can learn more about me at www.transitionsparkcoaching.com. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook.