How to deal with workplace conflict

Building resiliency at the workplace will help during disagreements with others.

Challenges and conflict sometime happen in life, and the workplace is no exception to that rule. There can be miscommunication or a difference in opinion that can lead to disagreement. How you choose to respond to that conflict is the important consideration. Overcoming obstacles, such as conflict, is a part of being resilient -- the ability to adapt well to adversity and recover from discouragement. 

The first step is to know yourself well. Think about the types of situations or interactions that cause conflict or stress for you most often. You can then be proactive in determining coping mechanisms or other strategies to approach those situations and diffuse them before they become too challenging.

Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development shares a few approaches to build your resiliency at work:

  • Consider what is in your control and what is not. What can you change in this situation and what must you accept? For those things that you can change, what are the appropriate and most professional methods to resolve the issue? Be respectful and confident when discussing the topic with a peer or supervisor. It is also important to be willing to listen and hear the perspective of someone else.
  • Use positive self-talk. Reframe the messages to yourself to represent how you would talk to your friends. Give yourself the positive advice you might share with someone else in respect to the conflict.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member to gain perspective. A mentor would be another great person to role play working through a situation. Consider how a role model might respond to this conflict and see if there are positive response techniques that you can emulate.
  • Take time before you respond. It can be easy to give a quick and curt email response or fire back at someone when upset. Take a walk, wait to respond until two hours have passed, or give it a day so you can explore the best approaches and options to work through the challenge. Allow time so that emotional response is not your first response and, instead, you can approach with logic and reason.
  • Picture the situation resolved. How would that look? Rarely is anything permanent in a work place so imagine what it would be like to successfully have handled this issue and have your work environment functioning differently.
  • Enjoy a rich personal life. Work is one component of our life, but it is important to still maintain and grow in our personal lives. This can mean expanding our friendships, learning new things, exercising, traveling and taking time to relax. Having a rewarding personal life can lead to a more fulfilling work life.

For more activities and information on building resiliency in the workplace, check out the Empower Your Future: Career Readiness Curriculum Guide. For more ideas on how to successfully prepare for your future career and success in the workplace, MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development provides resources on the Michigan 4-H career preparation website.

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