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How to Manage Conflict and Maintain Civility at Work

Individual skills and processes to manage conflict and maintain civility and respect in a workplace are no longer a nice-to-have, they are a need-to-have.  

After all, managing conflict effectively and respectfully can result in the development of positive and lasting relationships that are resilient and sustainable. To do this, organizations need to start by enhancing leaders,’ managers,’ and employees’ levels of self-awareness.  

This leads to better development of empathy with others. We can predict emotionally charged situations, and employ the know-how to manage them effectively. 

Managers, employees and even the employers need the tools to model a calm, engaged and collaborative approach to conflict. With proper training, we can all have a compassionate approach during times of change or conflict.

At the very core, is the need for effective dialogue. 

In 1954, Winston Churchill said that “Jaw, Jaw Is Always Better Than War, War.”   So, the better we are in dialogue, the better we’re going to be able to resolve things.

Without dialogue, conflict and civility between co-workers will worsen, but with respectful dialogue, we can become much better at managing conflict.

Where there is two, there can be trouble

Whenever two or more human beings hang out with each other there is a risk for conflict. Growing up with three brothers, I remember great times and not so great times (as you can imagine).   However, in workplaces, employees don’t have the option of going outside to play in the garden to avoid their coworkers (if only…), so the need to better manage that potential conflict is of utmost importance. 

10 Tips for Managing Conflict and Maintaining Civility

  1. Devote the Time: Conversations need room to grow if they are able to reach their full potential. Research shows that we spend a lot less time than we think just talking with people. Yet, when a conversation is really working well, the time seems to fly by.  Share the Airtime: Make conversations like dancing—a two-way partnership where neither side dominates. 
  2. Stay in Touch: Studies show that many of our more difficult conversations could be avoided by staying in more regular contact with each other. In other words, more jaw, jaw. 
  3. Value Differences: Every conversation is a potential learning experience. We can all make our lives richer by understanding the experiences of others. Think of conversations like exploring the pages of an encyclopedia, full of valuable knowledge. 
  4. KnowYour Reputation: How other people see you, greatly influences how they approach you in conversations.  
  5. Own Your Thoughts and feelings: Respectful conversations avoid the blame game. Use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements when talking about your thoughts and feelings. 
  6. Recognize and Respect Feelings: To express your feelings clearly and openly with other people, you must be able to recognize them first. Likewise, if you’re not able to recognize other people’s feelings, you’ll only understand part of their picture. Empathy is a powerful tool! 
  7. Don’t Make Assumptions: Many misunderstandings arise from faulty assumptions about all kinds of facts and feelings.
  8. Accept Responsibility: Blaming the other person for not understanding you, or for you not understanding them, is completely pointless. While you can’t be responsible for the other person’s efforts, you canbefor your own. 
  9. Choose the Right Moment: Don’t bring up important issues when the circumstances are wrong, or there isn’t time to deal with them properly. 
  10. Set the Stage: Use the opening part of a conversation to be upfront about why you’d like to talk, and what your main point is. You’ll better engage the other person and help them understand where you intend to take the dialogue.

Another 10 Tips 

  • Be Specific: Talk in a way that’s about real things, real experiences, and real feelings.  
  • Summarize: Regularly summing up what you’ve said can transform the quality and accuracy of your conversations.
  • Keep an Open Mind: Listen with as little prejudice and as few presumptions as possible. Avoid instant judgments and try to avoid responses that are criticisms in disguise—they will likely sabotage the conversation for you. 
  • Show You Understand: At its core, empathy is about demonstrating that you understand. This is best done through words that reflect the other person’s feelings and meaning.  
  •  Say When You Don’t Understand: Be willing to recognize when you don’t understand, or you need to know more. The other person should respect you for your efforts. 
  • Work Hard at Clarity: If you’re not clear, try again. It may not be your fault that you’re feeling fuzzy about understanding, it could be that the other person’s thoughts are unclear as well. Encourage them to be concrete and specific about all the ingredients of their own story. 
  • Check Your Understanding: From time to time, verbalize your understanding of the other person’s thoughts to confirm that you’ve got it right. 
  •  Spare the Advice: The best decisions are those that people reach for themselves. So be lean on the advice, but generous with the help and support. Friction can arise if we try to jump in and solve everyone’s problems. Most of the time, the other person just wants to share. 
  • Base Your Feedback on Facts: Offer helpful feedback based on a straightforward description of the behavior and its impact. Before you offer advice or guidance, always make sure you have enough information. 

Be Yourself!  That is the most important tip there is, and be willing to be more with every new conversation.

2019-01-28T13:53:03+00:00

About the Author:

Phil Eastwood is a former London Bobby who brings a thirty-five year career in policing to his role as Senior Partner of Fiore Group Training, a recognized leader in training top North American organizations. Phil is lead author of workplace training courses in respectful workplace training, workplace violence employee training, and leadership training seminars.