Learn how to handle workplace conflicts - Metro US

Learn how to handle workplace conflicts

Reacting to workplace conflict with hostility can simply inflame the situation.

First impressions are essential when job hunting, from your resumé style to your interview appearance, however, your firsts don’t stop there. Meeting your coworkers for the first time can have a significant impact as well.

In an effort to appear open and willing to learn at my latest post I gave an impression of incompetence. A co-worker then overstepped her bounds and started taking my work away from me. In an attempt to set things straight I may have offended her. So, how do I balance being willing to learn and being assertive?

Anna Maravelas, president of TheraRising.com and author of How To Reduce Workplace Conflict And Stress, says there are four fundamentally different ways we respond to others when their behaviour disappoints or offends. They are hot contempt, cold contempt, the doormat approach and warm integrity.

“The four responses are the result of positive or negative energy toward the other person combined with high or low assertiveness,” she explains.

The first approach, hot contempt, is a hostile attitude combined with assertiveness resulting in direct attacks.

“We see this response rarely in the workplace. Usually we see hot contempt at home or on the highway, where people aren’t influenced by performance reviews, fears of termination and the hope of promotions or bonuses. It’s direct, it’s in your face and it’s hostile.”

While this form does contain an element of assertiveness it is combined with hostility.

“Think of it this way,” suggests Dr. Thom Lisk, professional speaker and author of Noble Leadership. “Your job is to propose not to oppose. If people reject your proposals don’t take it personally. Maybe they really do not have a need for what you want to offer. So, first define the problem they might have and see if they agree before presenting a solution.”

The second strategy is cold contempt. This is a hostile attitude combined with passiveness results in cold contempt — backstabbing and avoidance.

“This is the most common response in the workplace when individuals face a touchy situation. It’s passive-aggressive and seriously destructive,” says Maravelas.

In this form we inflame the grievance to justify our negative behaviour. We often use other’s mistakes to gain status, undermine the other person’s reputation and support or justify our position she says. We seldom question whether our behaviour is part of the problem.

“If we address the problem directly we do it without warmth. We’re often self-righteous and indignant. This approach triggers defensiveness and negative reciprocity,” she says.

Lisk agrees. “Ideally you win people by making friends,” he says. “You can’t do this if you turn them off. Position yourself as a professional problem solver. This always works best in the long run.”

Handling conflict at work properly can relieve a lot of stress in your daily routine.

• Next week we will explore the last two strategies and learn strategies as to how to put these into practice.


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