Work Journal: 3 Techniques to Effectively Manage Difficult Conversations at Work

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

Conflict Resolution at Work at Mustard Seed Sentinel
Credit: Joshua Ness

3 Techniques to Effectively Manage Difficult Conversations at Work

by Joanne Troppello

It’s not easy to have difficult conversations in the workplace. You need to discuss an issue but are fearful of conflict with a coworker or manager. You hope the conflict will go away by avoiding talking about it.

However, avoiding these difficult conversations will not make them go away. You need to find a proactive and positive solution to these conflicts. Constantly avoiding talking about the issues will only serve to promote a toxic environment in your workplace—leading to decreased productivity.

According to a CPP Inc. study, approximately 2.8 hours each week are spent by employees dealing with workplace conflicts. Over 33 percent of employees had to deal with personal injury from physical attacks because they were not able to have these conflict resolution conversations. Of those employees, 22 percent had to stay home from work due to illness from those physical attacks. Additionally, 10% of these employees were not able to finish team projects they were working on.

This article addresses three techniques to better manage conflict in the workplace.

1. Approach the Conflict Head On

Our personalities sometimes get in the way of how we manage difficult conversations in the workplace. Outgoing people with strong personalities don’t tend to have a hard time starting the conflict resolution process. However, their delivery can sometimes cause additional stress due to their more dominant tone.

Stay professional and focus on the actual conflict head-on. Maintain a positive attitude and try to effectively resolve the conflict by using the following steps.

· Other Person’s Perspective – Think about how the other person is feeling. See the situation and issue from their perspective. Don’t fire off your points like you’re at a firing range. Take the direct approach while being introspective.

· Professional Manners – Keep an even tone while sharing your points. Don’t raise your voice. Stay professional at all costs. This may be hard for some people, but it’s the right way to get to the root of the issue and resolve the conflict.

· Positive Execution – Be prepared with facts, not only assumptions. Maintain a conversational tone and don’t interrogate the person. Always have an equal exchange of ideas while you work together to resolve the issue.

2. Take an Indirect Approach

If you are less outgoing, take an indirect approach. Don’t hide in your office. You need to have the courage to speak to this person, but you can make it work with an indirect approach. Consider the following steps for taking this type of approach when resolving conflicts.

· Evaluate the Outcomes – Take the time to think about the severity of what could happen if you don’t have this difficult conversation. Negative results will happen if you allow this conflict to fester in the workplace. Don’t let this conflict fester and generate a violent outcome. Sure, that is an extreme example, but you saw in the statistics shown at the beginning of this article that some conflicts lead to violence.

· Drum Up the Confidence – Take a deep breath and read some motivational quotes or listen to a motivational speaker to help you get the motivation to have this difficult conversation. You’re likely scared or want to hide in your office or stay at your desk. Remember that you need to deal with this conflict. This indirect approach takes a measure of confidence.

· Mature Performance – Make sure you remain mature during all parts of this conflict resolution process. Don’t speak from fear. Speak from your inner courage to deal with this issue effectively. Maintain a positive mindset and know that you can make a difference in cultivating a positive atmosphere in the workplace.

3. Take the Teamwork Approach

The conflict may be so great that you need to take the teamwork approach to resolving this issue. Sometimes you may be too emotionally involved and need a neutral party to help you remain calm and professional. Bring someone into the conversation who can remain calm and help all participants stay focused solely on the facts.

· Honesty is the Best Policy – Everyone involved in this conflict resolution process needs to be honest with themselves if this is going to be productive. Otherwise, the resolution is only a façade and the conflict will continue to fester. Take an introspective look at why you cannot take one of the first two approaches and why you need a third neutral party.

· Proper Planning Brings Resolutions – The only way to get a positive resolution to your conflict in the workplace is to properly plan for the discussion. Otherwise, the discussion will likely quickly escalate into a shouting match and you’ll all play the blame game. Plan for a signal or facial expression that your neutral third party will give you when he or she needs to inject themselves into the conversation to bring everyone back to a professional focus. Discuss the issues and facts with the neutral party before entering into this discussion.

· Action Steps to Take – Make sure that you don’t read from a script or you’ll have a stilted conversation that will not result in a positive resolution. Discuss a safety signal that you can give to your neutral party if you feel afraid and need them to intervene.

Clear the air in the workplace by having the difficult conversations you need to have. Stay professional and always plan your action steps so you can effectively resolve the issue.

Have you ever had to engage in a difficult conversation in the workplace? What type of approach did you take and how did it go?


About the Author

Joanne Troppello is a published author of 3 inspirational fiction novels and the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Mustard Seed Sentinel. She has experience as a freelance writer in topics such as marketing, retail marketing, health and wellness, SEO and social media, travel and lifestyle, website content, recommendations for apps, and content for blogs. Visit her Amazon Author Page for more information regarding her books. Connect on Twitter. Read more about Mustard Seed Sentinel here.

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