Resolving Workplace Conflict


Resolving Workplace Conflict

Conflict in the workplace is unavoidable but our business and teams thrive when we accept and embrace the power of having difficult conversations

I’ve previously written on the importance of soft skills in leadership and I love this topic because increasing your emotional intelligence and conflict resolution skills as a leader can revolutionize your ability to lead.

As a business and career coach for women of color and allies, I’ve worked with a wide range of leaders including C-suite executives, board members, and small business owners that understand that a key component of their leadership style is learning to communicate and have ‘conscious conversations’.

Embracing difficult conversations and learning to navigate them in the right way allows us to understand our colleagues and team members better, leading to deeper, more meaningful relationships and of course to a safer and more fulfilling work environment.

Why makes conversations difficult in the workplace?

Any workplace, whether a large corporation or a small business with 2 employees, brings together people with different lived experiences, traumas, triggers, and work styles. And while this can lead to brilliant ideas and synergy, it also can become rife with conflict.

Why? Because bringing together all these different perspectives and backgrounds means that everyone is trying to communicate within a totally new culture.

As a first generation immigrant in a Filipino family, growing up in my household meant that if you wanted to be heard, you had to get loud. I was used to telling my family, especially my brothers, exactly what I thought in any way I could to get them to listen. When I started working in professional environments, I had to relearn how to effectively communicate in a workplace setting, and specifically how to ask someone for consent to give them feedback.

Reactions are informed by different upbringings, cultural norms, and personal experience for every individual, and when leadership doesn’t take this into consideration, conflict between team members is bound to arise. The important part of finding solutions is to better understand that difficult conversations, when done right, can bring people together rather than escalating conflict to the human resources department.

How to resolve conflict in the workplace

As a supervisor or business owner, it’s your responsibility to effectively communicate and manage conflict. Not only do you need the skills to navigate your own difficult conversations but also to serve as a mediator between employees or team members.

I’ll share my three tips for resolving conflicts in the workplace that I’ve learned from my time as a business and career coach.

1. Understand that difficult conversations are not NEGATIVE conversations

You may have noticed me using the term conscious conversations instead of difficult conversations. That’s because in my career and work as a coach, I’ve seen the ultimate positive power of embracing the conversations that most of us are taught to shy away from. The word difficult itself has a negative connotation, so reshaping to conscious conversations more accurately describes the overall intention of purposeful dialogue between two people: to find understanding.

While conscious conversations may contain elements that are sensitive or for some people hard to hear, they don’t have to be innately negative. Your willingness to navigate difficult waters with someone else determines how enriching your relationships are both personally and professionally. Respect and active listening must be at the core of any conscious conversation. Drop the idea that a conversation is about who is right and who is wrong and you open up the opportunity to achieve the ultimate goal: understanding the other person on a deeper level and better understanding their challenges and motivations.

Giving and receiving feedback shows we care and are invested in our relationships. Creating a company culture that values and normalizes conscious conversations will reward everyone.

I share more about the importance of of having conscious conversations in the 7th Color Your Dreams Podcast about, “From Cancel Culture to Conscious Conversations in Business and Life.” You can listen to this 23-minute podcast episode on Apple or Spotify.

2. Ask for consent to give feedback

Growing up in a household where I had to be very loud and direct led me to have to quickly relearn how to communicate in the workplace. I had to understand that giving unsolicited feedback, especially at the wrong time, was not great problem solving. I had to learn when to prioritize difficult conversations and most importantly had to develop the habit of asking for consent to give feedback.

I often say we live in an ‘Amazon Prime’ world where we want everything right now. It’s no different when it comes to conflict–once we get up the courage to initiate the conversation, we generally want to spew out our feedback right now! But remember that the person on the receiving end of your feedback may be experiencing a variety of things that will affect their ability to show up well to the conversation.

Try to always say something like, “Hey, I wanted to give you some feedback on something I noticed during the last team meeting, is that okay?” and also “Is now a good time for you?”. Allowing your colleague to assess whether or not they are ready for your feedback is essential to starting out of the right foot. It also prepares them for the conversation.

Remember also that anxiety exists around these conversations. When asking to give feedback make sure to be specific rather than leaving your colleague worrying about what you could be talking about for the rest of their day.

I share more about how difficult conversations improve our lives in the 40th Color Your Dreams Podcast episode, “Why Difficult Conversations Improve Our Life + Work Relationships with Erica Courdae and India Jackson.” You can listen to this 52-minute podcast episode on Apple or Spotify

3. Behavior Modeling is essential

If you are a leader of a business or the supervisor of a team, it’s crucial to know that your behavior will be reflected back to you by your team. If you are modeling poor communication and defensiveness, you are inviting conflict situations and miscommunication into the workplace. But when you normalize conscious conversations by modeling active listening, asking curious questions, and receiving feedback in stride, your team members will learn to do the same.

On the flip side, if someone isn’t showing up well in these conversations and is experiencing work style conflicts, remember they may not have had a behavior model for these situations in their own life. Be patient, create a safe space for feedback, and do your best to seek better understanding of their point of view.

The more time and effort you dedicate to navigating the murky waters of conscious conversations, the more benefit you and your team will see.

I love having difficult conversations and I love working with my clients to get comfortable in this space. Are you ready to create a sustainable and values-driven business, while still being profitable? My business coaching may be the perfect fit for you in this phase of your work.

If you would like further support in your career, business, or leadership, my team and I would love to support you in creating a sustainable life! You can schedule a 30-minute legacy business or career review call with me to see if it’s a good fit to work together, and you’ll receive 3 action-items from me.

Related: Speaker for WOC

Related: Why is it Important to Stand Up for Yourself

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Legacy Maker!

Before you go to another page, sign up for my free, weekly Color Your Dreams Newsletter where I dish the latest business tips, career secrets and legacy advice!