Courage with Conflict
Courage With Conflict
Managing conflicts with others requires some courage. Why? Because dealing with conflict means taking a little risk. The risk may be real or imagined, but it is still there. Some issues seem so threatening that we avoid taking the risk. We go for the short-term gain of not dealing with it and sometimes end up with the long-term pain of living with the conflict.
Let’s say you are involved in a workplace conflict. It might be between you and your supervisor, or it could be a peer-to-peer conflict with one or more team members, or it could be between you and someone you supervise. In other words, the conflict is with a person or persons with whom you have some type of interdependent relationship at work.
Tip: Play the “What If?” game to assess the risk of the conflict.
Answer these questions:
- What if I don’t address the conflict?
What’s the worst that could happen? The problem escalates. There is more frustration. Work relations are even more strained. Productivity is affected. Careers can be sabotaged.
What’s the best that can happen? The problem goes away on its own. (How likely is this?)
- What if I do address the conflict?
What’s the worst that could happen? Others think I’m out of line. Others become defensive and argumentative. Team members start shutting me out.
What’s the best that could happen? We talk it out, resolve this issue and come to an agreement on how to handle future problems. We gain better understanding and trust. Everyone involved moves out of their comfort zones and grows.
When you weigh the pros and cons it helps you decide the best action to take. You usually do not gain much by avoiding conflicts. They don’t usually go away if you ignore them. On the other hand, asking and answering these questions can help you get perspective and overcome some of your fears. Look for the opportunities that conflict holds. Conflict is not bad in itself, it’s how we deal with conflict that makes it good or bad.
Ben Adkins is a mediator, trainer and lecturer on the strategic management of workplace conflict.