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Andre Vlok | Let’s have less conflict in 2022

Andre Vlok
Andre Vlok
Image: Supplied

Here at the end of the year, when we have some time to reflect on workplace experiences and how we can improve on them in the coming year, let’s have a look at conflict with those difficult colleagues and how we can improve these often very uncomfortable and even harmful situations that we have to live with.

Workplace conflicts of course fall on a wide spectrum, ranging from mild disagreements to bullying and victimisation.

While research shows that actual bullying behaviour more often than not cannot constructively be changed, and that it requires actual disciplinary intervention, the positive reminder is that you do have a voice, that solutions can be engineered, and that you are not powerless.

First, you need to assess and understand the actual cause of the conflict.

We often mistakenly repeatedly deal with the symptoms of a conflict, and never with the cause.

Second, honestly assess your own behaviour — are you contributing something to the conflict, even if it is just passive aggressive behaviour, acquiescence, over-sensitivity or a perceived hostility?

Correct this where possible. If necessary, ask the opinion of a trusted colleague.

These conflict resolution principles can also prove helpful:

  1. Know that a lot of workplace conflicts stem from people feeling threatened. Reduce this perception where possible;
  2. Call out inappropriate behaviour there and then, as it happens;
  3. Do not take the blame when you are being bullied. Remind yourself of the important distinction between a valid workplace instruction and being bullied;
  4. Do not escalate conflict into disciplinary action until you have exhausted your other options. These disciplinary processes can often harm all involved;
  5. Where appropriate, encourage your employer to upgrade and effectively implement its own internal conflict management processes, such as workplace mediation and coaching. This, whether done internally or through the assistance of an external expert, often resolves seemingly intractable conflicts without having to resort to the blunt tools of disciplinary processes; and
  6. Know when to consider your career alternatives if your workplace environment remains toxic despite your best efforts.

        While workplace conflicts can, and should, be constructive energies, a cyclical, repetitive conflict is normally a sign that the parties have become stuck somewhere, and that they are using the wrong tools to resolve the conflict.

I wish you increased confidence and success in your workplace conflicts for 2022.

You can contact Andre Vlok at andre@conflictresolutioncentre.co.za for questions and comments. 

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