How to Handle Confrontations At Work

There are many situations at the work place that can lead to an eventual and uncomfortable confrontation. You can be battling with a tough customer, having trouble with a demanding boss, or having a hard time dealing with a coworker that is really competitive. You will have to deal with one or all of these situations as a member of the workforce. No matter whether you are the boss, or you are just an employee, there will probably be a situation that will be unpleasant and hostile in the office and you will have to be able to deal with it. Usually, no one is looking for a confrontation, but it does happen from time to time.

There are several different types of confrontations that are most common at the office.

One type of confrontation occurs when there are questions being brought up about someone’s feelings. There is a question of whether someone’s feelings are valid or inappropriate. Also, confrontations can occur when feelings that are obvious are not really addressed at all, which can lead to further problems.

A second type of conflict occurs over the who-done-it type of arguments. Usually something happened that wasn’t supposed to happen, or something that was supposed to happen didn’t. After this there is a blame game to see who is responsible for whatever happened or didn’t happen.

The third most basic type of conflict has to do with some type of personal attack. Someone telling someone else or implying that they are not competent, hard-working or likeable. These types of assumptions or accusations are always able to cause negative tension in the office.

It can often be very hard to manage these types of issues and conversations, that is why it is better to be prepared for such instances and know what to do if a conflict does occur. One way to try and stop a conflict from occurring is to think ahead. If you know that you are going to bump heads on an issue that you are about to discuss with someone, it is better to start off the conversation with a topic that you can see eye to eye on. Wording is also a very important part of the deal. The delivery is very important. Do not ask “What’s your problem?” Instead, ask “How may I help you?” You are essentially asking the same thing, but you are avoiding a tone that is leaning towards a confrontation.

The words you choose are very important. If you say “and” instead of “but” you will sound less confrontational. If you say “I agree with you, but…” then it sounds as if you

actually do not agree, and that you are setting up a disagreement. It is also very important to listen to what the other person is saying. It is especially important to continue listening to that person if they because aggressive and they start raising their voice. Do not lose your cool as well. Keep listening and keep being respectful, even if that person is being loud, hostile and intimidating, do not go down to their level. If you are not reacting, they will see that and they will settle down as well. You should always keep eye contact as well. It is a matter of respect. If you are going to be in a conflict, you must be respectful. Keep looking them in the eye while you are talking. Also, it is good to address them by their first names in order to get their attention. It is of utmost importance to keep your cool at all times. If they are getting fumed, ask them if they can please have a seat and continue this conversation seated. If they cannot cool off, ask them nicely and suggest that you meet again to discuss the issue at another time. Negative and absolute comments need to be avoided at all costs.

There are different types of confrontation – some can be healthy, others can be unhealthy. Sometimes confrontation is necessary and other times it is not. It is important to understand all of the types of situations in which confrontations can occur.

First, you must know that it is completely normal and even healthy to argue and debate with people. Sometimes, people even make a living out of arguing – lawyers for instance. It happens ever now and then that an argument escalates at the office, and it might develop into a confrontation of some sorts. If someone ruffles your feathers or is constantly pestering you, then it is good to confront them, however, if you are walking around the office just looking to pick a fight, that is rather unhealthy. The thing about confrontations is that they often end unfairly. You could have picked the fight for a just reason, but it may turn out that the tables have turned and that you have ended up being in the wrong, and that happens all of the time. These things are unjust many times – the best thing you can do is learn to live with that.

Even though you do not know when you will end up right or wrong, you can improve your chances by picking your battles more wisely. Whoever you are in the conflict with, you have to know how to somehow try to levelthe playing field. If you are in a fight with your supervisor, you need to be aware of the fact that he is your superior. You can scream at him all you want, but you need to know that it is in his job description to counter what you say and to end up on top. It’s a little harder to win an agreement in this situation, especially in the business world, where it might even be impossible. Technically, even if he ignores you or just avoids replying, he still wins, because he’s the supervisor.

You should also know that there is a very great sense of territory at work, not only geographically, but also in terms of other things such as time and responsibilities. People are very serious about what is theirs and what is not. If you are pinning your responsibilities on someone else, or you are claiming someone else’s responsibilities, it is going to bother someone, so be prepared for a conflict.

You really need to take everything said about you in the workplace with a grain of salt, just because it does get competitive. Jealousy and envy are always aspects that come into play in the office, and they are unavoidable. These natural emotions do not turn off when you enter the office, you are still human beings even though you are workers or employees.

Power and struggles for power – they are present in many conflicts and confrontations. There is a set of strategies that you have to follow in order to try and win the confrontation, and this set of strategies is specified for the world situation. Some things that come into account in this situation are ownership, rank, titles, clout, experience and things of that nature.

There are also differences between the way conflicts play out in large and small companies. When you are working in a small company, where everyone is close, then the founders will usually have the final word in every matter. However, when it is a large company and there are many other bigger fish in the fish tank, then the situation is a little different. There is more of a balance in power in these cases. That is why many young businesspeople who start their own businesses want to keep most of the ownership to themselves, so that they can have the last word in every situation that might erupt. When a company grows, then the ownership percentage of the owner tends to dwindle, since other investors are active in the company now. And when there is growth in the company, there are many more stakes, more money is being made, and there are more stakeholders involved. Obviously, this leads to problems and confrontations as well.

When the company expands, there will be more people coming in that are at a higher level of power. When the company was smaller, only the owner or owners were at the top of the pyramid, now there will be many other people involved as well. There will be managers there too, and they are also problems that can potentially erupt. Many people who have been working there for a long time might be angered by the fact that there are new people in the company that are more powerful than they are but have not been a part of the company for very long. As these external parties start infiltrating the small, but budding, company, there will be debates eruption and there will be more and more arguments as far as new ideas and business models are concerned.

Even if you think you have a greater say because you have been in the company longer and you have a more personal relationship with the owners, you must remember, that business and conflicts and confrontations in business are rarely fair. This means that things such as rank, title and clout still play a major role in everything and that it will be hard for you to have the upper hand, no matter how great your history with the company is and how strong your personal ties within the company are. Sometimes it is just better to know when to stop insisting and when to back down.

In that spirit, here are some helpful tips for avoiding conflict in the workplace.

Believe it or not, avoiding confrontations is probably a better and more useful skill than learning how to win them. Of course, you know that you will not be able to avoid these types of clashes in the office, so it is important to remain professional and show that you are interested in the success of the company first, not in having your way. If you are good at avoiding conflicts, it can lead to promotions and leadership positions, because it is a lot harder to resist conflicts than to dive headfirst into them.

One things that you should do is to take a moment before responding. Think of something to say that will not make you sound incredibly defensive. If you are accused of something you surely did not do, you need to think for a minute and decide what would be the best way to respond. If you are calm and collected, it will be easy to see that you are not affected by the claim, which will prove that you have not done what you were accused of doing.

It is more important to know when not to talk than to know what to say. If there is a lot of office gossip going around, try to stay away from it. The less you know about these things, the better your chances will be to avoid conflict. In these circumstances, the less you know, the better.

Also remember that yelling will not help. Even though it might be your first impulse to yell, and even if the person is yelling at you, do not response in the same way. Do not stoop down to their level, just remain clam and talk normally. This will usually help to calm the other person down if they are yelling at you and foaming at the mouth. However, it might even make them angrier, so watch out for that. Either way, you will have the advantage, because the other coworkers will observe you remaining calm while the other person is screaming at you.

You should also avoid calling people names, even if you are joking. You should not do it behind anyone’s back either, because these secret nicknames and jokes always leak out in the end, and they always reveal the source as well. This is similar to the part about avoiding gossip in the office. If you refrain from saying things about someone behind their backs, then there is a smaller chance that the things will ever get back to them.