Office Conflict

Erinn Dumas is a self-proclaimed marketing and communications guru.

Erinn Dumas is a self-proclaimed marketing and communications guru.

By Erinn Dumas

Recently, a friend told me about an issue she was having with her boss. While the cause of the issue was minute, it felt like a mountain to her.

She had taken offense when her boss told her that her work was a “good start”, when in her eyes, the assignment was a completed 10-page plan. She took offense to this comment because she felt that her boss was in no position to criticize her since her boss didn’t have the same education or work experience as her. Basically, she looked at her boss as inferior.

As a result of the comment, my friend became very angry and tensions rose between her and her boss. This was not her first conflict with her boss, so this issue was compounded by their bad history. After deep prayer and talking with a few friends, she knew that she had to talk to her boss about it all. It was not easy for her to do – she hates conflict. She took her time and talked to her boss and cleared the air, she expressed to her boss why she was acting different and how her boss’ words made her feel. This eased the tensions between them, and more importantly, it lifted a weight off of my friend’s shoulders.

This story may be your story as well, or maybe you have been fortunate and not have experienced an office conflict. If you haven’t experienced it yet, it’s never too late to be prepared for it. You could be the boss and have an issue with your employee, you may have an issue with a colleague, or you may be the employee and have the issue with your boss.

Executive job search website, The Ladders, provides great conflict resolution tips. I agree with all of them, but I want to emphasize numbers 2 and 3 which are to apologize and pause.

2. Apologize as soon as you say it.

If you get triggered into saying something you regret, apologize right then and there. A well-timed, well-intentioned apology is not a sign of weakness — it’s a sign of respect, regard, clarity and executive civility.

Apologizing is a GREAT conflict resolution tool. The need for an apology may not come to you right after the incident, it may come to you that evening, but when you realize that YOU were wrong, you have to admit it. Great leaders can admit when they are wrong and you are no different from them. Sometimes apologizing immediately eliminates the conflict, especially if the issue is minute.

3. Pause.

As soon as you realize you’ve been triggered, pause and before saying another word, let your adrenaline surge and silently dissipate. Soothe with a benign smile.

Pause is another great tool. Sometimes it’s best to remove yourself from the issue, so you can get some clarity. Pausing allows you to think through the problem to see if it’s something that really needs to be addressed.

To the conflict resolution tips by The Ladders, I would also add talk to a trusted, objective mentor or friend. Speaking to an objective person about the issue will 1) help you to vent, and 2) provide you with some sound advice. There’s nothing like talking to someone about the issue and them providing you with objective feedback that can help you assuage the conflict.

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