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Breaking Down 10 Colossal Myths About Workplace Conflict
Dan Rose

July 17, 2017

For many, workplace conflict immediately invokes thoughts of shouting matches and negative relationships. While this extreme is not good for any workplace, conflict should be embraced and not avoided. It’s a natural part of relationships and human communication and shouldn’t be viewed as inherently negative or unhealthy.  What matters is how one manages conflict with others.

Here are 10 myths about workplace conflict that most people believe, but shouldn’t:

Myth #1: Workplace conflict is a result of poor management

In fact, conflict is a natural part of communication. By gaining multiple perspectives, work groups are better able to come up with optimal solutions. Groupthink and the strong desire to conform in a group can actually squelch great ideas.

Myth #2: Conflict is always an indicator of low concerns for the organization

An employee willing to give a dissenting opinion is usually someone committed to organizational goals. Simply nodding and going along with the boss’s ideas is easy. Sticking your neck out in a respectful, honest way is hard work.

Myth #3: Conflict and anger are negative and destructive

Conflict and anger are negative when they are not managed skillfully. Constructive conflict happens when the individuals involved know that disagreement is not personal and is part of the process to reach the best end result. Hostile tones and personal attacks have no part in business conflict.

Myth #4: Conflict, when it surfaces, must be resolved immediately

Address conflict immediately. However, moving TOO quickly to end the conflict can diminish the positive outcome. Also, it is management’s responsibility to have policies in place that prevent unnecessary conflict over trivial things. Good conflict relates to problem solving rather than disagreement over procedures or processes.

Myth #5: Conflict, if left alone, will resolve itself

Often, problems are caused by what isn’t said rather than what is said. Unaddressed conflict festers and hostility grows until the problem explodes, suggests positivesharing.com

Myth #6: Men don’t deal with conflict; they just disagree

There are plenty of people, both men and women, who are bad at handling conflict. An aggressive approach may clear the air but permanently damage the relationship, according to huffingtonpost.com. While conflict avoidance keeps the peace temporarily, it lets things fester and the parties never reach resolution.

Myth #7: Women should take conflict personally

Thoughtful disagreement can be a sign of respect, suggests Ben Casnocha in an article for womenofhr.com. Women and men should work to stay respectful when disagreeing … and in turn, receive comments in a non-personal way.

Myth #8: When you deal with conflict and don’t resolve it your way, you should shut down

Conflict should not be personal. The goal of positive conflict is to find the best solution. Your contributions to the discussion, whether chosen or not, lead to the final solution. Addressing potential obstacles and optional approaches is all part of reaching consensus.

Myth #9: Losing a conflict means you’ve failed

People consistently believe that they are right and they are being reasonable. Seeing another person’s view and being able admit that it just might be a great solution (or at least as good as yours) demonstrates that you can be objective. Failing occurs when you stubbornly lose objectivity.

Myth #10: Choosing to confront conflict is an indicator of an aggressive nature

It takes tactful and skilled communication to confront conflict. An aggressive approach makes the situation worse. It can make the other parties defensive and hostile.

Conflict is a normal, healthy part of communication. The way people address conflict determines if the results are positive or negative. Don’t avoid it or move too quickly to resolve it. No matter what, don’t take it personally. If you’re a manager, work to create clear conflict management processes and procedures. 


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