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How to Manage Conflicts in the Workplace

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Conflicts at work occur for many reasons: poor communication, different understanding of the work tasks or objectives because of power struggles, poor management, problems at home that hit the employee or manager so hard that they he unloads his frustrations at work, underpayment, work overload, and so on. We can also say that there are two kinds of conflicts: between employees and between managers and employees.

First, you must understand that it is almost inevitable in your work life to take part in a conflict as direct participant or supporter of a colleague in conflict with someone at work. As a first conclusion, no matter where you work, conflicts can occur, and the secret lies in trying to manage it and resigning only when there is nothing left to do. In the first instance, you should try to understand what caused the conflict, how serious it is and how you can solve it.

Conflicts between employees or between employees and managers can occur when:

  • Work is understood differently;
  • Employees or managers are overloaded;
  • The employee or manager is unloading their frustration from home at work;
  • An inconsistent manager assigns tasks randomly or changes the strategy constantly;
  • Employees or managers are underpaid;
  • Employees want to be promoted at all costs;
  • There are big differences: cultural, professional expertise, or vision about how to approach a work task, or when personalities are too different;
  • Employees are forming groups and consider that their group knows what’s best;
  • Employees are unhappy about working conditions, management, when and how they are paid, and how they are approached by managers;
  • There are large differences regarding wages or tasks assigned;
  • Employees are kept overtime constantly;
  • Employees are not respected as people, and their work is not appreciated;
  • Employees’ rights regarding working hours, meal breaks, holidays, unemployment insurance or health are not respected.

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Psychologists believe that in order to solve the conflicts in the workplace related to the above, the following steps must be taken:

  • Identify the problem that led to the conflict;
  • Try to communicate calmly, respecting the point of view of the person you are talking to and giving them the opportunity to express their views;
  • Focus on the current situation without taking into account issues from the past;
  • Do not forget that it is possible to have two truths about a certain issue or even two different troubleshooting scenarios. In this situation, it is good to think that is more important to solve the problem than to impose your point of view at all costs because of your pride;
  • If the reason for the conflict is not a particular issue but poor communication of the manager or colleague, understand that a difficult character does not change if we start an open conflict. On the contrary, it is recommended to have patience for a while, to try to keep your calm and manners in the hope that at some point, the colleague or manager will change or even understand that they cannot fight with you;
  • In the case of a manager who has a habit of unloading his frustrations on his employees, it is good to consider if he has a difficult personality and whether the language or tone he is using is not just with you but rather is his communication style. In this circumstance, it is good to consider if it’s worth keeping that job or if you should find another where it is possible to have a better or worse manager;
  • It is highly recommended also to work with a psychologist to understand if you do something wrong in terms of how you communicate or behave and possibly to learn how to manage the conflict.

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It is good to know that sometimes we get carried away and believe that our job is the worst in the world, that we are not appreciated or are paid too little for what we do. For this reason, it is good to respect three golden rules:

  • Work with a psychologist to understand how you can address the problem in order to learn about emotional intelligence and approaching the conflict in the right way. This learning can help you not only at work but in all aspects of your daily life.
  • Once a year, get in touch with a recruiting agency to discover if there are better opportunities in terms of wages or growing your career;
  • If you decide to resign because of a conflict, it must not be before you ensure that you can find or have found another job. Sometimes it can be worse not to work for a longer period of time, getting too much in debt, being pressured by your partner to find a job or putting pressure on your partner to support the entire family financially.

Constantin Cornea, Psychotherapist and Life Coach

Anda Tudor, Life and Career Coach

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