Disagreements at work are to be expected and quite common. After all, you are two people coming into the work environment with different backgrounds and life experiences. The question isn’t how to avoid disagreements but rather how to disagree respectfully; handling conflict abrasively or unhealthy can lead to a hostile and unwelcoming work environment. Some people have different expectations for what the workplace serves. For some, work is work, and building relationships outside work isn’t prosperity. In contrast, having a close-knit relationship with their coworkers is a valuable experience for others. Whatever end of the spectrum you are on, fostering a cohesive work environment for healthy disagreements is essential. Conflicts can arise from a difference in role expectations, demographic and multigenerational values, etc.
What are ways not to handle conflict in the workplace? One is speeding it under the rug. While openly discussing our grievances isn’t easy, letting them fester builds resentment in the long haul. Some handle confrontations directly face-to-face. In contrast, others might feel more comfortable having another staff member present or express their feelings through email or over the phone. All methods are good, and both parties must communicate their needs with one another to come to a compromise.
A second tip is to be wary of blame and guilt. When most people feel attacked or solely held responsible, they might shut down or become defensive. Awareness of your body language and how it could influence the other person’s reaction is essential. Physically, you want to position yourself in an open and receptive manner and use I statements when describing how that person’s actions or words made you feel. When in doubt, substitute you for I. A typical workplace disagreement is due to multigenerational differences. When this is the case, it is important to focus on the person’s behavior rather than stereotyping the person’s personality based on stereotypes of that generation, as doing so feeds into blame and is not constructive.
Before conversing with your coworker or supervisor, it is essential to reflect on the end goal. This can be clear, concise, and specific about the changes you wish to see or simply compassionately expressing your truth. This can be done through the sandwich method; First, you acknowledge what is working or what that person does well. Then, using I statements, describe your frustrations. Thirdly, end on a positive note; for example, acknowledging their openness to discussing with you.
Lastly, to make this interaction construction, it is valuable to come into the experience open to taking responsibility and reflecting on your shortcomings. We are human beings and inherently flawed. Instead of looking at a workplace disagreement with negative skepticism, it can be a moment for growth—a time to connect, understand and learn more about the people in your workplace.
By, Chioma Ofodile, MHC Intern