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March 30, 2020 | 4-minute read (727 words)
As much as we all hate to admit it, conflict at work is inevitable. Although it’s unpleasant to deal with, conflict sometimes leads to important breakthroughs. What matters is that conflict is handled professionally and that it doesn’t lead to fractured relationships.
Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly how to interact with a colleague who has different conflict resolution strategies than you do. That’s why it can be helpful to read guidance that outlines the best ways to deal with office conflicts. The following books can help give you the tools to resolve any conflict that might arise during your time in the business world.
Drama-Free Zone: How to Deal With Conflict at Work by Mark Baggesen
This was a quick read but included exactly the right advice about how to remain professional, calm and articulate, even if you’re in a disagreement with someone at work. Key to those relationships, Baggesen writes, is to treat everyone as an individual and an equal rather than using your title or position to get your way. In addition, he covers such topics as how you can create a drama-free zone and how to manage your manager. He also reminds readers that your work acquaintances are not necessarily your friends.
One way to ensure you won’t have a drama-filled workday is to start your day with a peaceful morning so you walk into the office with a positive state of mind. “You know yourself,” Baggesen writes. “You know what makes you angry, stressed, happy or relaxed. Only you can decide what it will take to get into the right state of mind each morning before work.”
101 Tough Conversations to Have With Employees by Paul Falcone
The second edition of this bestseller came out last fall, and it covers everything from dealing with employees who behave inappropriately at work to those who whine or gossip. Although Falcone’s book is mainly for managers, the advice about how to navigate work relationships can apply to anyone, even those who are just having issues with colleagues or partners and not just with employees.
The strategies allow you to not only ensure that you can actually go through with these tough conversations, but also that you will do so professionally and appropriately. “Publicly shaming or ridiculing an individual will only develop resentment and anger,” he writes. “The goal of any management response in situations like these is to ensure that the individual is treated with dignity and respect.”
How to Lead When Your Boss Can’t (Or Won’t) by John Maxwell
While Falcone’s book (above) offers advice on how to deal with employees, Maxwell’s book discusses how you can create synergy when it’s your manager who is the issue. But I also recommend it for managers so you know what types of behavior you should be sure to avoid. If you, as a manager, read this book and see your own personality traits coming up over and over again, it could be time to pivot. And if you want to know how to approach your boss about a conflict, this is a great guide.
“One of the worst things that happens when bosses don’t lead is that the vision of the organization suffers,” he writes. “If a team starts out with a vision but without a competent leader, it is in trouble. Why? Because vision leaks. And without a leader, vision will dissipate and the team will drift until it has no sense of direction.”
Turn Enemies Into Allies by Judy Ringer
This book has less to do with communication skills and more to do with how to change your own perspective and see things through a different lens. It allows you to determine whether you should employ self-improvement strategies which will allow you to forge stronger relationships.
I like Ringer’s perspective of putting the onus on readers to work on their own relationship attributes before trying to “fix” their colleagues’ issues. “Dealing with conflict is an essential element of management, and yet one that many managers avoid,” she writes. “Conflict can be hard, complex, and fraught with emotional roadblocks. However, with a shift in perspective, an investment of time and practice … you’ll be able to manage the majority of workplace conflicts and help members of your team build key skills.”