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How To Handle Conflict Professionally

Most people I know hate conflict. Although, I do know someone who seems to chase conflict and thrives in being negative and argumentative whenever the opportunity presents itself. But, for most of us, arguing with colleagues is not on our list of daily to do’s.

However, even if we don't actively seek it, conflict will arise at work. Learning how to handle stressful situations and avoid clashes in a professional way, will separate you from being a jerk or a polished communicator and leader.

Today I'm covering three areas of conflict to help you better manage hard conversations and difficult situations at work and in life.

Is There Really A Conflict Or Did Your Feelings Get Hurt

One of the biggest causes of conflict I see from all levels of professionals is hurt feelings. I have witnessed this with both staffers and managers time and time again throughout my career.

You may think you have an open door policy, but are you prepared to hear candid feedback on performance as a manager or employee? Are you prepared to have holes poked into your awesome idea? Are you prepared to see something from another persons perspective?

In business you have to be objective about your performance and ideas. Sometimes you'll hear no. Sometimes you won't get support from your team on a big idea and you may even be told you've failed.

When these things happen,  your role isn't to immediately fly off the handle with anger, but rather to take a step back and listen. Listen to what your colleague is trying to tell you versus how their message makes you feel. Think objectively to find the truth in their statements. With reflection you will often see their criticism was constructive and you did miss the mark.

Reacting with anger to what I term as “big people talk” at the office is unprofessional and will damage your professional reputation. Don't force conflict just because your feelings are hurt and you choose to react poorly to a situation.

Are You Unable To Let Go

Conflict may be born of past mistakes; meaning, let go of the past. If you find yourself constantly picking at a boss or peer about something that took place 6 months ago, stop. Everyone makes mistakes and trying to constantly “teach” someone by continually beating the same drum causes unproductive friction.

I'm a full supporter of friction on my teams. As a leader, I believe there has to be some friction in business. Without a little back and forth, your team and company will become stagnant and new ideas will evaporate or may be implemented without fully exploring the best options.

So, in my opinion friction is good to grow ideas and drive business. However, if the friction is caused by Debbie Downer who is constantly harkening the past mistakes of everyone in the office, that is unacceptable.

Both you and your peers will be happier at work and more fulfilled if you make every effort to get along. Holding grudges about insignificant mistakes will only hold you back as a professional.

When Conflict Arises, Measure Your Approach

Sometimes conflict is necessary. We don't live in a utopian society. Hard conversations need to happen at times and conflict will arise. If you learn how to handle difficult situations professionally, you'll avoid most arguments.

Keep in mind difficult conversations usually get out of hand when one party pushes it to the point of arguing. Regardless of the situation, choose to not be that person.

Whether you are receiving a difficult message from a boss or peer or you are delivering a difficult message, think before you speak. Consider your audience and build your communication in a way that reaches their professional aptitude.

A difficult conversation with your CEO should sound very different than it would with your front line customer service team. Reacting to a situation without thoughtful consideration may cause you to say or do something you'll regret. As you approach a difficult conversation, step back and think objectively. Try to see the other person’s perspective clearly.

Find Your Voice And Professional Purpose

As you climb in your career you'll find your involvement in difficult conversations will naturally increase. For this reason, it's important that you begin to develop your professional communication style early in your career. Ask yourself how you want others to perceive you.

If your approach is “my way or the highway,” you will not go far as a leader. If you can't take constructive criticism, you'll never become a leader. If you don't appreciate your team and find yourself constantly thinking everyone around you is an idiot and you can do no wrong, I guarantee conflict swirls around you because you unknowingly cause it with your arrogant behavior.

Take time to decide today who you want to be as a peer, colleague, professional and leader. Take control of your behavior, how you react to stressful and difficult situations and make a decision to not be the cause of unnecessary conflict. That doesn't mean you become a doormat, it simply means you continually polish your professional demeanor and communication skills.

Focus on not overreacting. Try to find the most professional way to respond to difficult conversations. If you continually look for opportunities to professionally communicate and problem solve, you'll find difficult conversations will become easier and your peers will be more receptive to your thoughts and advice.

Need Help Polishing Your Professional Approach

As you advance in your career you'll face new professional hurdles. Going it alone and feeling your way through is not the best way to expand and grow. If you're serious about your development and struggle with conflict resolution, tapping an Industry Certified Career Coach experienced in your field will help you learn how to effectively communicate and approach uncomfortable and stressful professional situations.  Get Started Today!

About The Author

Recognized nationally as an industry leader in resume writing and career coaching, Jeanna McGinnis, CPRW is a Founding Board Member at ReResumeMe and AVP, Career Strategy at A Players Executive Search Group Inc. Leveraging more than 15 years of experience directing hiring practices for multiple Fortune 100 companies, Jeanna and her team are refreshing how busy professionals brand, market and drive their careers. Please connect with Jeanna on LinkedIn or the ReResumeMe team on Twitter to simplify your career with updates on careers, job search and resume best practices!

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