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Conflict with Colleagues: Are You Making These 6 Mistakes?

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The working relationships you have with your colleagues can make or break your experience at work. In fact, positive relationships in the workplace correlate to better productivity, performance, engagement, and morale. They also contribute to a greater sense of belonging and camaraderie that can make you want to stay on your team or at your organization longer.

In light of this, conflicts with colleagues can feel especially distressing and stressful. Niagara Institute's assessment of how professionals resolve conflict at work confirmed this fact as it uncovered that 30.6% of respondents agreed they can be perceived as aggressive when in a dispute with a teammate.

While these cannot be entirely avoided, there are definitely things you can do to reduce the severity and length of the conflicts you do encounter. For starters, take a look at the following list of common mistakes people make when dealing with conflict with colleagues. Are you making any? If so, what can you do to rectify them? 


Mistake #1: You Listen to Respond, Not to Understand

One of the greatest tips for handling conflict with colleagues is to listen more than you speak and when you do, listen to understand the other person’s perspective and intention. If you don’t, you risk causing more harm than good. So, the next time you find yourself in a conflict with a colleague, make a conscious effort to focus on listening and asking questions rather than mentally deciding what to say next.


Mistake #2: You Sweep the Conflict Under the Rug

When you experience conflict at work, especially with someone you are particularly close with, you may be tempted to avoid the situation or pretend nothing is wrong. While this is particularly characteristic of those who adopt the avoiding conflict style, anyone can fall into the trap. In doing so, you may experience undue tension, resentment, and stress that compromises not only your working relationship but, in some cases, your ability to do your job effectively.


What's your conflict management style? Take this quiz to find out!


Mistake #3: You Keep Score and Dwell On the Past

In a conflict with a colleague, do you think to yourself or even point out things like, “I’m always the one to compromise” or “ “You never…” If so, this is a telltale sign of keeping score and dwelling on the past, which can complicate the conflict at hand and make it that much more difficult to resolve. In fact, well-known author and speaker, Tony Robbins once warned, “The minute you start keeping score, you’re destroying the relationship.”


Mistake #4: You Vent About the Conflict to Mutual Colleagues

When you are in the midst of a conflict with a colleague, it is natural to want to vent about it. However, it can be dangerous to do so with your mutual colleagues as it can cause them to become involved when they otherwise shouldn’t be. So instead, turn to an impartial individual like a friend outside the organization or a mentor who will not only listen but will ask questions, give sound advice, and even challenge your perspective.


Mistake #5: You Don’t Take Time to Collect Yourself

If you want the conflicts you experience to be as healthy as possible, it is best to give yourself time and space to collect yourself. That way, when you address the conflict with your colleague, you can be as rational as possible and less driven by your emotions. Also, it allows you to gather more information and honestly assess the situation, which may help you more clearly see a possible resolution than it would be in the heat of the moment.


Mistake #6: You Don’t Speak Assertively or Stand Up for Yourself

There will be conflicts where the best thing to do is compromise or collaborate on a mutually beneficial solution. But there will also be occasions that call for you to stand up for yourself and speak assertively. If you don’t, you may become resentful of more than just the colleague you're in conflict with. The key to doing this appropriately and effectively is to speak with conviction, avoid belittling yourself, limit your apologies, and set boundaries that you stick to.


Conclusion: Take the Conflict Style Quiz to Handle Conflict with Colleagues Better

Navigating conflict with colleagues is never easy, but addressing these common mistakes is a great way to make it more manageable for yourself and anyone else involved. You may also find it helpful to find out what your dominant conflict management style is, as well as your colleagues, using this quiz. Once you have done so, make a point to read up on the characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses of the syles so that the next time you encounter a conflict, you can approach it more mindfully and capitalize on each other's strengths.

What Is Your Conflict Management Style? Take the Quiz to Find Out