No one particularly enjoys conflict, especially in the workplace where you make your livelihood. However, for some people, this goes one step further. Conflict at work doesn’t just make them uncomfortable; it’s a real fear of theirs.
While this can be a challenge to deal with, like many other fears, it can be managed to some degree, if not overcome. In the following article, we’ll review the definition of organizational conflict and how you can begin the process of overcoming a fear of organizational conflict.
What Is Organizational Conflict?
Organizational conflict, otherwise known as workplace conflict, happens when two or more people disagree or misunderstand one another. It causes stress and tension that can lead to problems such as costly mistakes or reduced productivity, if not appropriately addressed or resolved.
How To Start Overcoming a Fear of Organizational Conflict
Organizational conflict is inevitable in any environment where people work together, interact with one another, experience stress and pressure, and deal with competing priorities and goals. To help you prepare for when it does, here’s how to start overcoming a fear of organizational conflict:
Identify What It Is About Conflict That You Fear
Everything from your past experiences to your personality can influence and exacerbate your fear of conflict. That’s why it is important that you dig deeper into what exactly it is about the conflict that you fear. For example, do you fear standing up for yourself, only for your feelings or needs to be ignored? Do you fear disappointing your peers or leaders? In addition to these, here are some common fears associated with organizational conflict:
- You fear not being liked
- You fear disappointing others
- You fear failure
- You fear compromising the relationship
- You fear rejection
- You fear tension
- You fear the unexpected
- You fear a repeat of a past experience
- You fear what it could do to your reputation
- You fear the potential fallout or consequences
Find Out Your Conflict Style
The next step in overcoming a fear of organizational conflict is understanding your conflict style and the additional four styles, which include:
You can do so by taking the following quiz and reading the corresponding explainer guide, which includes information on the characteristics of each conflict style, along with the potential strengths and weaknesses of each. But don’t stop there; send it along to your peers. Then, once you both have your results, take the opportunity to sit down and discuss who you can support each other and communicate better when a conflict occurs.
Practice Assertive Communication
If you have a fear of organizational conflict, then assertive communication might not come easily to you, but there are small ways you can begin to become more comfortable with it. In fact, you can start today by practicing the following tactics with people you are most comfortable with:
- Use “I statements”
- State facts, not hearsay
- Take time out from an emotional situation to gather yourself and prepare what you want to communicate
- Avoid exaggerating with phrases like “You always…” or “You never…”
- When you say no, be definitive about it
- Don’t let a disagreement fester, instead promptly address it in private
Challenge Your Own Assumptions
In 2022, we asked over 700 professionals in more than 36 countries about their approach to conflict management at work. What we found is that the primary goal of over 50% of respondents was to restore peace with their colleagues. Moreover, 59.5% said they try to make everyone feel heard in a conflict, and 87.8% agreed that they are willing to compromise in a workplace conflict.
All this is to say that if you’re fearful of organizational conflict, remember that not everyone wants a fight. In fact, many will be just as willing as you to collaborate on a solution and put the whole thing behind you.
Seek Out Training or Coaching
Overcoming a fear of organizational conflict takes time, practice, and experience. Fortunately, you can accelerate that by investing in training or professional coaching, which will equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to effectively handle conflict at work in a low-pressure, risk-free environment. As to which option is right for you between coaching vs. training, this will come down to your learning preferences, your timeline, and your available budget.