Clear Corporate Communication: Conflict Management with Challenging Colleagues

We all know these people. You probably had a name pop into your head when you read this title. You know the one, the one who consistently delays your work because they miss deadlines, the one who never reads their emails and always asks questions you already answered, the one who always has a derogatory tone, the list really goes on and on. And as we all know, the one who’s led you to include a “stress ball” allocation in your budget may be my favourite person in the office. We’re all afflicted with simply being human and therefore different people are inevitably going to knock heads – or become immortalised in your stress ball collection.

So what do we do to employ conflict management, stay professional and not ruin our budgets?

Try to understand their perspective

We all have our own unique set of lenses that we view the world with and we all have (well, we all should have) lives outside the confines of the office. Even within the office, we have different roles and we need different things. We need to be mindful of all of these factors when we’re traipsing through a confrontation, or a bubbling frustration, with someone.

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If someone is consistently late with something, asking them why goes a long way. Perhaps they really are just completely overloaded with work, perhaps your weekly deadline coincides with three other weekly deadlines they have or perhaps they don’t see the value in your deadline. For whichever reason, understanding the dimensions surrounding the challenge paves the way for a solution. Unfortunately, that solution may simply be to learn to ignore.

Get perspective and check your own

We need to evaluate our own perspectives continuously. Expecting a report done at 08:15 on Monday morning may have been sensible when you were a company of 5, but now you’re 15. Your manager needs slightly more than a minute per person to complete your request. It’s not the most pleasant experience realising how wrong we are so our minds do this wonderfully comforting but realistically detrimental thing where we protect ourselves and think we’re always right – and no we’re not. To bring yourself back down to Earth, it’s useful to discuss the challenge you’re experiencing with others and to ask whether you are in fact being realistic and whether your “challenge” actually is one in the first place.

Manage your reactions

Calm down. If it hasn’t been drilled into you your entire life, take note: do not react when you’re angry, agitated or frustrated. Take a walk, breath, pop one of your stress balls (you’ve budgeted for it already), think about your happy dog at home, do whatever you need to do to calm down. Then reflect on the two points above and decide how to react and whether a reaction is actually necessary.

Address the issue

You’re calm now, you’ve gained some perspective of your own and you’ve attempted to gain an understanding of the other person’s perspective. After all of this, you have come to the rational conclusion that a reaction is warranted. Decide how to go about this; consider the other person and consider the actual challenge at hand.

Don’t attack someone and don’t make them feel like they need to be defensive. The moment you do that their brains will activate that wonderfully comforting thing we discussed earlier and you won’t get your point across. Approach conversations from the perspective of wanting to understand why this person is doing whatever they’re doing and once that’s been explained to you, it’s your turn. Explain why it’s a challenge for you and try to come up with a solution that makes sense to both you and the other person.

conflict managementWhen all else fails

Some people are particularly difficult and you won’t reach a solution. They’ll still consistently delay your work because they miss deadlines, they still won’t read your emails and will still ask you questions you’ve already answered, they’ll still have that derogatory tone and so on and on. Fortunately, these people tend to be in the minority but they do exist. If this person is really making your work life hell and you haven’t been able to find a solution you may need to talk to someone in authority and explain your situation – there sometimes really isn’t another option.

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So now that you’re more equipped to deal with whomever’s name popped into your head when you read this title, I hope you meet you future deadlines, your emails are read, you’re spoken to in a pleasant tone of voice and that the stress ball allocation in your budget can go towards something more pleasant. Good luck.

 

Written by Maraine Basson – Researcher at CA Financial Appointments – maraine@ca.co.za

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