If you’re anything like me, resolving conflict means taking an ostrich approach: stick your head in the sand and hope it goes away. Not surprisingly, it’s far from effective in shutting unwanted behaviour down.
It can take any shape or form – it could be a disagreement on the direction of a project, a clash of personalities or blatant bullying. The worst part in these situations is the feeling of self-doubt that begins to creep in – that same feeling that makes you question your abilities, your ideas or if you’re even cut out for the job.
So how can you take control back and change the situation?
Developing the confidence to stick up for yourself and address confrontation head on is no easy feat, but being proactive and taking ownership to reach a result that works for you is the first step.
When you look at the ideal outcome, is there anyone who can help you get there? Reaching out to a trusted confidante, workmate or a leader could be the support you need whether it is for advice, to help plot your next move or to test any decisions with.
Despite your best interests to resolve the conflict head on, the other person or party may not always be so accommodating – the key is to keep the dialogue open. You may not be able to change a person’s resistance to your opinions (or what seems to be your existence at times), but continue to look for alternative ways to get your job done.
If you’re working on a project, this could mean briefing your team prior to a meeting – share your ideas and concerns which they in turn could voice on your behalf. Scenarios like this will show your team that you are maintaining a professional and proactive stance – you may even find out that you are not the only person in the team dealing with issue!
What if it’s the culture of the organisation that is the root of the problem? It could be an environment that promotes unhealthy competition, or one where the thought of making a mistake makes you feel sick. It’s no surprise then that the thought of standing up for yourself would be terrifying; the impact on your career, the repercussions – would anything even change? For the amount of time we spend at work, it is far too significant a number to shrug it off and hope it goes away.
There may come a time when you have to ask yourself whether the problem REALLY is going to change? Give yourself a time limit. If the situation hasn’t changed within that timeframe, or no effort has been made by your employer to initiate progress, call time. Some may see this as failure in that they couldn’t fix the problem. Stop right there. Take the pressure off yourself and accept that there are some things we can’t control – and it’s not your fault. Sensing staff discontent, companies will often dangle carrots – you know, pay rises, freebies – in the hope that employees will stay. Sure it works for a time, but is that loyalty to your employer to see those ‘promises’ through enough to keep you in a situation that is emotionally draining?
Prioritising Wellbeing & Relationships
When you leave work and turn your phone off, what is your go-to activity to unwind? There really isn’t anything better than doing something you enjoy to keep your spirits up and your mental health in check. It’s a boost for your confidence, and replaces the feeling of negativity with some positive self-love. As hard as we try to resist, we all bring work home with us in some way – whether it’s the mood work put us in or the workload we couldn’t finish during the day. Relationships can also take a hit when you’re facing stress; the key is to make time for the people in your life that will help keep your spirits up.
- Self-talk – switch out the negative with some positive thinking. Dr Libby has some great tips on how to be kinder to yourself
- Get active – this is something you can do during the work day whether it’s taking a walk around the office every hour, going for a walk at lunchtime or switching the lift for the stairs. Some days the thought of waking up early to work out or stopping in at the gym after work sounds like absolute hell – but you know how it good it feels once you’ve had that workout; making a commitment to a friend or PT is one way to hold you to it
- Relax and take time out – listen to what your body needs and watch out for the signs of burnout
- Switch off from work – and connect in with friends and family. If you struggle with winding down, rather than keeping a mental check-list of all the things you have to do the next day, write-it out
Be a Team Player
You may not be the person struggling with conflict – but keep an eye out for others who could be. This could mean being aware of any persistent signs that could be part of a bigger problem. Your colleagues may begin arriving late to work, become increasingly agitated or look to be struggling to meet demands – these are red flags to take note of and act on for early intervention.
Although you are not in a position to make any assumptions or to diagnose, you can be there to start the conversation, to listen and to offer your support. And if you don’t feel like you’re not the right person to respond, get someone else on to it – the most important thing is that you act.
Making a Change for the Better
So what if this is your dream job, the one you’ve jumped through hoops and scaled the impossible to get to. How do you just back away from it? It can be hard to see when you’re swept up in a tough situation, but know your worth and know that you have more options – after all, any job that produces feelings of anxiety, fear, self-doubt and dissatisfaction is not the job of your dreams.