Your Workplace Conflict Can Be the Biggest Opportunity of Your Career, says Achievement Expert
How to turn a negative situation positive
By Robert J. Flower, Ph.D.
Conflict is an inevitable part of professional life — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, says Dr. Robert J. Flower, an achievement coach and the author of numerous books on potential and finding purpose. It’s all in how you handle it, he says.
“Although we often perceive conflict as a negative, workplace disagreements can be a great opportunity to see things from a new perspective, expand your own understanding of a situation, and develop creative solutions that can improve those workplace relationships and impress your superiors,” Dr. Flower says. “But in order to take advantage of all that, you first need to learn how to manage conflicts artfully.”
Here are Dr. Flower’s tips for turning a tricky situation from negative into positive.
Stop it before it starts. Little problems, left untended, can quickly escalate into big problems. Don’t let them, says Dr. Flower. “Learn to recognize the kinds of situations that have a high possibility for conflicts, and try to manage those risks in advance,” he says.
“For instance, when everyone is under intense deadline pressure, stress levels are higher. And rushing creates a greater potential for mistakes to be made — and accusations to fly. But there’s no reason to let it get that far,” he says. Keep an eye on the schedule. When you see one of these situations coming down the pike, step up and plan for it to reduce the likelihood of a workplace eruption — and have a contingency plan in case it happens anyway.
Don’t react — Restructure. When tempers flare, it’s all too easy to say regrettable things that can’t be unsaid. To avoid causing lasting damage in workplace relationships, it’s important to recognize your own hot buttons. For example, most people can’t tolerate a personal attack or accusation, such as having their work ethic called into question.
When that happens, it’s very hard to resist hurling some equally insulting words back — but resist you must. “It’s important to excuse yourself from an emotional situation before you say something you’ll regret,” Dr. Flower says. Give yourself the time and space to determine whether your reaction is justified, and how to handle the problem constructively and objectively.
Get your facts straight. In the heat of an argument, it’s easy to play a little fast and loose with the facts to support your case. Don’t, says Dr. Flower. “When individuals pretend to know more than they do, or make declarative statements without evidence, it just makes a bad situation worse,” he says.
Know everything and then some. “If you acknowledge what you don’t know, others will feel they can safely do the same. Then you can work together to find the information you need to resolve the conflict.”
Check your motives. You can’t patch up a disagreement if you don’t know what you’re really upset about. Be honest with yourself, Dr. Flower says. “Ask yourself, is my ego getting in the way? Is my reaction stemming from my own fears and insecurities? Am I being stubborn just to save face?”
Armed with this kind of self-awareness, you’ll be much better equipped to navigate the conflict — and resolve it peaceably, he says.
Dr. Robert Flower founded The Gilchrist Institute for the Achievement Sciences in 1982, a nonprofit Human Potential Research and Development think tank located in Bronxville, NY.
Robert J. Flower, Ph.D., Director, The Gilchrist Institute for the Achievement Sciences | Bronxville, NY (914) 779.6299 Email: email@example.com
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