Conflicts are a natural part of life – we deal with them with our parents, with our siblings, with our spouses, and even with our own children. But often we also deal with conflicts in the workplace, and these can be the most difficult conflicts to resolve. Because of the foundation of relationship we have with those close to us, we are typically more well-equipped to deal with familial conflicts. In the workplace, however, conflicts often deal with people we hardly know (or, at least, with people we wish we hardly knew!), and this can make them much more explosive. There is no magic elixir that can make workplace conflicts go away completely in an infallible manner, but there certainly are specific things you can do that will enable you to diffuse workplace conflicts before they spin out of control, no matter how close they are to spinning out of control already.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when dealing with conflict, especially in the workplace, is assigning blame. If you tell someone on your project team, “You don’t do any work,” they are far less likely to listen to you, and you are therefore far less likely to resolve the conflict, than if you express, “I feel like I am doing all the work.”
The “us versus the problem” is an especially positive approach to take when dealing with conflicts. Instead of pitting two individuals against one another, the “us versus the problem” approach essentially says, “Yes, there is a problem, so let’s identify it and work it out together. This is also a great way to avoid placing blame, as the problem becomes something both people are fighting against together, instead of something that is being ascribed to one person.
Finally, although it might be tempting to do so, do not always involve your superiors in an argument. You can introduce bitterness into your relationship with your coworker very quickly when you involve someone else. Furthermore – no matter who is “right” and who is “wrong” – nobody looks good when a conflict gets taken to a higher-up.
Conflict resolution is not always easy, but it is often necessary. Instead of fighting and making your conflicts worse, learn how to solve them.