conflict at work
Careers advice, Office Life

Ask the expert: how to manage conflict at work

Jobrapido’s Global Vice President of Human Resources, PatriziaTurri, shares how to manage conflict in the workplace.

Conflict is a fact of life — one that many try to avoid. Many of us view conflict as negative, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Jobrapido’s Global Vice President of Human Resources, PatriziaTurri, shares how to manage conflict in the workplace in a productive and (mostly) painless way.

Can you give us an example of a workplace conflict and the most effective strategy to manage it?

The most common conflicts at work relate to responsibility – as in who is responsible for what in a given role. Misunderstandings often happen when a goal or deadline is missed, and someone is looking where to place the blame on another’s failure to take charge of an activity or overlapping responsibility. The best way to handle conflicts of this kind is to prevent them. Make roles and responsibilities very clear right from the beginning. However, if a conflict has already broken out you have to take action.

My advice is to manage the issue face-to-face in a meeting room and only address people directly involved in the conflict – never in an open space or in front of third parties. The best technique is to separate the problem from the person and to look at the problem that is at the origin of the conflict as a fact. And look for a solution together.
Let’s say for example we’re approaching a deadline and there are some critical tasks that have not yet been completed, we must ask ourselves why it happened. What can be done together to fix it? What can be done to prevent it from happening again?
It is important that all the interested parties can express their point of view and find a common solution without blaming anyone. You get out of conflict by creating a win-win situation and leaving with the common commitment not to let the same thing happen again.

How should we behave when a conflict occurs with people outside the company (customers, suppliers, external collaborators)?

I’d say that the logic should be the same as when you’re dealing with a coworker — a common ground of understanding and dialogue must be found. Be sure to check your tone when talking about an issue and remember to avoid confusing the problem with the person. Staying professional and polite is important when dealing with external parties as you’re a representation of your company.

How can we transform conflicts at work into an opportunity for enrichment and personal and professional growth?

They say hindsight is 20/20. It’s important to look at a situation and ask yourself how your own behavior or performance could have impacted the onset of a problem. What choices could have stopped the conflict in its tracks? How can you prevent the same problem from happening again? Learn from your mistakes and move forward.