New Year, New You?

Charlotte Hall
Wednesday 15th January 2020

Do you have your 2020 New Year's Resolutions?

You’ve made your resolutions, have started to put them into place and are feeling in control as you start off January.

…but then as soon as you’re back at work, you find the same old conflict and problems are still there and haven’t magically gone away or resolved themselves.

Well, you’re not the only one!

We all start each new year with the best of intentions but can so easily get sucked back into the same patterns of behaviour and conflict when in familiar situations and environments.

Work can be one such environment. Causes of conflict in the workplace can be something as small as the temperature in the office, hot desking or no one doing the washing up, or something as complex as tackling different working styles, personality clashes or shifting blame. Whatever the cause of the conflict in your workplace, ignoring it is never the solution.

Make one of your resolutions this year to confront your workplace conflict – easier said than done, right?

The first step: clear communication. Communication is the key to resolving conflict successfully. If you’re a manager and leading a team, it’s important that you create space for open, two-way communication with your team where you can resolve conflict before it reaches a critical stage, to avoid outcomes such as:

  • formal grievances or tribunal
  • staff absences or loss of staff
  • overall poor working environment

If these stages have been reached this should be a ‘red flag’ for the organisation, as clearly things have been allowed to escalate and not been dealt with quickly enough or at all. 

Open communication always starts with a LEAP: Listen, Engage, Ask and Provide

Listen actively – good listening skills are essential for resolving conflicts. Ensure you listen and acknowledge what others are telling you

Engage - reach out to the other person involved to deal with the problem before it has a chance to escalate. Make the first move and don’t avoid it

Ask about the problem, not the person – focus on identifying the cause of the conflict

Provide support and an open ear – promote tolerance and understanding and aim to reach a solution or compromise.

The second step: don’t jump to conclusions. Open communication is only successful if you leave your assumptions at the door. Try not to judge a situation before you have found out the other person’s perspective; be aware that everybody can have a ‘bad day’ and the reason for the conflict may not be what you think it is. Take the opportunity to always step back and consider the situation.  

It is important to remember that everyone has their own relationship to conflict and reacts to situations differently, based on their past experiences. This means that whilst some people have a natural inclination to avoid conflict at all costs, others might enjoy conflict and like to challenge people as much as possible!

Each of these approaches are valid, as long as we keep in mind that not everyone feels the same way about conflict – we all have different triggers and different reactions to conflict. If we take the time to find out these differences and respect them, it will benefit our relationships in the long term.

The third and final step: make your office a better place to work – It’s not just managers and leaders who should be striving to be honest and open, they are not solely responsible for setting the tone in teams.  To create sustained open communication at work requires a willingness from all members of the team to engage and follow the steps above.

This is a challenging process, and one that cannot happen overnight. If you would like to explore creating more effective team working and feel it is time to face the underlying conflict in your workplace, get in touch with Leap Confronting Conflict to find out about our innovative training programmes. 

Leap’s approach to conflict is based on over 30 years of experience working with young people and adult professionals and this has given us the knowledge and expertise to be best placed to support workplaces in managing conflict. If you would like to find out more, please contact Bethany Roberts, Business Development Manager (Maternity Cover):

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