What’s your approach to conflict?

Actually, there’s a question before that question: what’s your understanding of ‘conflict’? Because definitions vary wildly: from a mere difference of opinion to an all-out confrontation. And let’s not forget that many a workplace conflict is the product of misunderstanding. So if we take a broad definition of what conflict is, chances are we’re going to be encountering it at work on a regular, probably daily, basis. Now there’s a thought.

So what’s your approach to it? How do you respond? What are your default settings and their advantages / disadvantages?

If you tend to:

Avoid conflict like the plague – this can be useful if you need to buy time, or if you simply don’t find the issue important enough to deal with. However, start to notice if you’re doing this with everyone, as there are probably times when you should be standing your ground more.

Tough it out – great in a crisis, such as when you need to make a decision that will be unpopular no matter what. Just watch that you don’t steamroller people all the time. Instead, think through ‘what’s in it for them’ and give people fair hearing.

Give in – when you’re outnumbered and outwitted, this is probably a good strategy, but if this is how it goes for you all the time, stop hiding your talents and speak up. It’s time to start making your contribution.

Try to reach a compromise – if you’re up against a deadline, this can be the smart way to go. Just notice how often it happens and with whom. It might be time to call in a past favour. Keep the long-term objectives in mind, as well as your own values and those of your employer.

No single approach is superior to another: they all have their advantages and disadvantages, and situations in which they can be useful, so long as they’re not overused. Grow your awareness of which approach you’re using most and notice how it’s working for you. Try some of the other approaches out for size and see what changes for the better.

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