5 Ways to Turn Conflicts at Work into Productive Conversations

conflict at work

This post is part of a series of branded posts sponsored by Verizon. The focus of the series — part of a paid partnership between Verizon and CircleAround — is on women small business owners, and how they are navigating the complexities and challenges of contemporary business, from the pandemic to the economy.

Sometimes, conflicts with co-workers can feel unavoidable. There might be varying opinions on how to approach a project, creative differences, or issues with management styles. But these types of situations don’t have to result in a fight. They can be mediated conversations — with the right approach. Simone Morris, CEO of Simone Morris Enterprises LLC, has become a master of handling uncomfortable bumps in the road at work. She’s an award-winning diversity and inclusion consultant and speaker, committed to training women and emerging leaders to take true leadership positions in all aspects of their lives.

We asked Morris for some strategies on how to turn conflicts into productive conversations. Here are her five tips.

1. Take a Pause

When a challenging issue arises that you don’t agree with, it’s natural to become defensive, shocked, and even angry. Before you begin to address what has happened, Morris strongly advises taking a minute to collect your thoughts.

“Recognize that all is not lost and, if possible, take a deep breath to reframe the situation before you determine your course of action,” she says. “Sometimes, choosing just to listen can give you the time and space you need to determine your approach.”

2. Be Direct

“When you're ready to interject, begin by acknowledging the elephant in the room or what's happening,” Morris suggests. “I've done that in a training situation where defenses were up and I could tell there was resistance to the material I was sharing. So instead of ignoring it and continuing to pile on information I knew wouldn't be received (or sink in), I paused and brought the elephant (the big scary problem) into the classroom.”

“I acknowledge that I felt the tension and I advised that I was taking a time out to address it,” she adds. “You can do that if it's a performance review, a networking call, a retail encounter, or whatever it is. Acknowledge that you notice what's going on instead of ignoring it.”

3. Acknowledge Other Perspectives

Remember that, no matter how much another person disagrees with where you are coming from, a lot of times their actions stem from their own perspectives.

“Be aware that what you see is your perspective,” adds Morris. “You even may want to frame it by saying, ‘I want to share this because this is what's coming up for me.’ ‘I may be way off base but will you allow me to share my thoughts.’ I guarantee you that you will feel better, even if the recipient(s), choose not to acknowledge what's happening.” Follow the conversation where it goes until you've established a space that feels good to proceed.

4. Find Common Ground

Ease tension through commonalities. Don’t compromise your feelings, but find a place where both you and the other parties can feel comfortable expressing your thoughts.

“Find common ground to enter into the conversation,” Morris tells CircleAround. “You can tell when someone is passionate about a topic because you can immediately hear it in their voice. Continue that path and leverage to navigate to other topics you intended to cover.”

5. Reflect

As with any challenging issue, reflection is vital. “Do a lessons-learned review from the situation,” Morris explains. “Evaluate what went right and what went awry. Ask yourself: How would I like to handle this situation should it arise again?”

“Detach yourself from the outcome knowing that you will get your chance and that it doesn't have to be today,” she adds. “If you feel you can't do that, then find your way to bring the conversation to a close and allow yourself the opportunity to have a second chance at that conversation."


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