Most people dread having to confront a conflict at work or at home. Unfortunately, ignoring the conflict will not cause it to disappear. At some point the conflict will need to be addressed to allow people to work and live together well and to avoid permanently damaging the relationship. Determining when to raise and issue or confront a problem, or when not to, is a challenging question.
Conflict of interest
Different people will be in the same job for entirely different reasons—some for the money, some out of personal interest, some for career advancement, and some for a temporary learning experience. In any of these circumstances, it is possible that one’s personal interests may interfere with the common interests of the team and create a conflict. Should that become the case, addressing the conflict may become necessary.
Conflict of attitude
Different people have different approaches to their work and to tasks in general. For example, one person may focus in on the details and another colleague may be more of a big-picture thinker. These differences in approaches may cause tension between the co-workers particularly if one person’s attitude is that his or her approach is the best or only way to do a good job. Although it is difficult to change one’s natural approach, it is possible to have a respectful and positive attitude towards people who have different approaches. A decision to confront a person with an undesirable attitude may be wise only if that person’s behaviour has negatively impacted the work environment. If their negative attitude affects the morale and productivity of the team, trying to address that issue as soon as possible is likely necessary.
Conflict of goals
Getting the job done on time is an important goal in the workplace. Some people achieve that goal by working methodically right from the start of a project while others may get the work done on time through a last-minute rush. These differences in how one reaches one’s goals may become a source of conflict and stress among team members. As the team’s ability to meet their overall goals may be impacted by how individuals on the team meet their individual goals, having a discussion that explores how to handle these conflicting ways to meet the team goals may be in the interest of all team members.
Conflict of ethics
In determining when one needs to confront a conflict that may arise concerning an aspect of a colleague’s ethical behaviour, reference to Peter Bregman’s “rule of three” theory may be useful. According to Bregman, if an issue concerning one’s ethical behaviour is noticed at least three times then confrontation is warranted. If a co-worker’s actions seem to be deliberate, and are repeated, making the choice to confront that person may be appropriate as otherwise the concerning behaviour could develop into an unwelcome habit.
If you’re in doubt about confronting an issue, consult these five circumstances that likely warrant confrontation:
1. When you believe that addressing the issue upfront will lead to positive change.
2. When a person’s actions or attitude negatively affects others.
3. When there is a chance that the matter will get out of control if not confronted.
4. When not confronting the issue will likely be costlier than the unpleasantness of confronting it.
5. When you continue to feel uncomfortable and realize that addressing the issue may be the best way to ease your concerns.
Stitt Feld Handy Group offers training in communication skills, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and alternative dispute resolution for large and small businesses, using the latest adult education techniques. Contact us today to learn more about how to get started.