When Conflict is Avoided in the Workplace

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When Conflict is Avoided in the Workplace

One of the most common phrases I hear when facilitating Conflict Resolution in the Workplace presentations is “I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to hurt her/his feelings.”

So many times important conversations are avoided because of the fear of upsetting the other person, making things worse, or, hurting someone’s feelings.  A high level of sensitivity and compassion is such a valuable quality in the workplace, however, when it results in feedback and conflict resolution being avoided, the result is usually damaged relationships/trust and a conflict that continues to grow. There is a great quote by Judge Esty “conflict is not like wine. It does not get better with age.”  This is so true, in fact, in most situations conflict that is avoided becomes more difficult to resolve the longer the avoidance goes on.

It is important to remember that conversations about conflict do not need to be awful, hurt people’s feelings or make situations worse.  When addressed with compassion, clarity and congruence, conflict can be addressed in a respectful way that is focussed on solutions and moving forward.

Here are a few tips to help in these situations

1) Think in advance about the messages/feeling/perspectives that you need to share with the other person.  Practice saying these statements in a respectful non-judgemental manner.

2) Remove any assumptions you may be making about  the other  person.

3) Focus on understanding not blame.

4) Ask a lot of questions.

5) Be honest.

6) If something you say doesn’t land well, ask  for permission to do a “do-over” and restate your perspectives in a way that is more compassionate.