Wright Foundation | May 15, 2015

How to Use Conflict at Work

When most people hear the word “conflict,” they usually cringe. Visions of heated arguments and grudges may come up or perhaps anxiety about solving problems.

This can be especially true in the workplace, where tensions often run high as it is. Not all conflict needs to be traumatizing though—in fact, there are ways to be perceptive enough to use conflict to your advantage.

The ability to look above and beyond a single conflict and analyze your role in it isn’t easy at first. This social and emotional intelligence skill is based in an existential psychology study from the University of Chicago. Researchers found that people who are aware and live with a sense of meaning and direction tend not to get sick as often when under stress. Therefore, people with a sense of purpose who live consciously are robust and strong, and tend to fare better in conflicts. These people have a sense of direction and meaning, allowing them to recognize their role in conflicts and thus use conflict more effectively in all areas of their lives.

3 Questions to Ask When in Conflict at Work

#1: Am I taking responsibility?

When faced with conflicts, especially at work, it’s easy to play the blame-game. When asked why a report wasn’t in on time, you may immediately report that your colleague dropped the ball. However, take the time to examine your role in the problem. Perhaps the colleague was not instructed correctly on how to complete the report and changes must be made within team structure or workflows. Take personal responsibility and own it…even if it’s someone else’s problem. Remember: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Period.

#2: Am I aligned and acting with purpose?

While examining your role in a conflict, determine whether or not you have the company’s best interests at heart. In the example of the late report, the repercussions could have been an unsatisfied client—and an unhappy client could mean a lost customer. This could lead to losses for the company as a whole, and that affects everyone. When you determine your role and live and act with purpose, you prevent unnecessary conflict. After all, purpose is why we do what we do…and just surviving isn’t a very interesting purpose. Live with purpose and your colleagues will know you’re obviously invested in everyone’s success and you’re taking the future success of your business to heart, too.

#3: Am I working toward a solution?

Engaging in drama can be a huge time-waster—and it can make the process of solving a problem or resolving a conflict take forever or go nowhere. Finding directionality is key. Are you really searching for or working toward a solution? When approaching a conflict, ensure you’re doing your homework. Examine the whys and hows of the situation as a whole. By examining the situation, you’ll become empowered enough to have direction toward a solution. Ideally, your resolve will be directed at improving the company as a whole, as well as the jobs and wellbeing of your coworkers.

Conflict: A Fact of Life (and Work!)

Most people don’t like being involved in conflict—whether it involves coworkers, processes, or personal choices. However, the reality is we’re all constantly faced with conflict every single day of our lives. Conflict is a fact of life; we might as well embrace it! So make the choice to make the most of each conflict and use every conflict to your advantage: to learn and grow.

Remember to own your role in any and all conflicts, keeping the company’s interests—and your own personal awareness and personal responsibility—at heart and in mind.

Liked this post and want more? Sign up for updates – free!

Listen to this episode here on BlogTalkRadio or here on iTunes

Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.