I like to say that we all have a conflict story. For most of us, our experience of conflict in our lives shape how we cope and manage present conflict. I grew up in Northern Ireland during a period that is known as the “troubles”, a euphuism for a violent conflict that tore about our community for nearly 50 years. I have always tried to avoid conflict in my life. In the workplace, this has led me to avoid difficult conversations because I feared they would get out of control. Luckily conflict management is an emotional intelligence skill that can be learned.
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable.
This isn’t all bad. Handled well, conflict can strengthen communication, spark new ideas and generate new levels of performance. Handled poorly, however, workplace conflict can damage important relationships and drag down productivity. The first step in improving our conflict management is the emotional intelligence skill of self-awareness and assessing how well we handle workplace conflict.
To help you in this assessment I developed the following questions for you to review.
True or False
1. If the conflict is escalating, I offer to set the subject aside and address it later, possibly in a separate meeting. T / F
2. Defining the problem—and making sure that everyone agrees on this definition—sets me well on the way to solving the problem. T / F
3. I avoid attacking or criticizing, and I control my language. It doesn’t help any situation to be offensive or raise people’s defenses. T / F
4. Because good decisions are sometimes reached when everyone gives a little, I keep myself flexible and open to compromise. T / F
5. I do all I can to NOT get defensive. I listen to what others have to say and honestly evaluate whether their opinions might be valid. T / F
6. In any conflict, I keep my focus on a positive, solution-based outcome in which all can win. T / F
7. Even if it feels uncomfortable, I look the other person in the eye, showing respect for that person and for myself. T / F
8. I try to listen to and understand the feelings and needs beneath the spoken statements of others. T / F
9. My attention and activities are focused on what I can influence and control, and how I can make a difference. T / F
10. I explore with myself how my actions might have contributed to the conflict situation. T / F
11. Taking a bigger view is often all it takes to resolve for myself the smaller problems and irritations. T / F
12. I recognize that not everyone will live up to my expectations all the time. T / F
13. Maintaining a sense of humor is an important “tool” in my conflict toolbox. T / F
14. I work to establish ground rules for how to resolve the conflict. T / F
15. In conflicts, I take the time to deal with people face-to-face rather than by email. T / F
16. I challenge myself and others to be creative about the possibilities for conflict resolution available to us. T / F
17. I try to deal with regularly occurring conflicts and those that negatively impact my productivity before they escalate to a bigger conflict. T / F
For your EQ exercise, I suggest taking 2-4 of these questions that really struck you and making some time to journal about them or talk them over with a friend. They can be a source of insight and understanding.
You may also like this YouTube video I recently recorded which explores how to manage conflict with colleagues in the workplace.