• Prevention and communication: why they are keys to avoiding workplace conflict

    Workplace conflict arises, even in the best and most tight-knit office environments. In shared office spaces, where coworkers spend a lot of time together and often have open or undefined working spaces, there can be a lot of interpersonal interaction and that can occasionally turn into conflict.


    But what’s the best way to ensure that you can prevent workplace conflict or, when it occurs, how you can de-escalate it and rid your office of lingering tension?

    In terms of prevention, there are a few basic recommendations from experts. In a recent blog post, Abby Weil outlines that establishing and abiding by the ground rules of an office space can be one of the most efficient ways to prevent conflicts. “The best way to handle conflict starts with avoidance,” she says, and directs employees to try to follow the shared workspace rules about meetings, volume, and general conduct.

    Setting expectations is also the recommendation from Nexus’s “Guide to Managing Employee Conflict in SharedOffice Spaces,” which discusses how helpful it can be to encourage team members to respect each others’ boundaries right from the start. In addition, the site suggests that in shared working environments, noise levels can be a particularly frequent source of frustration, so it’s a good idea to have a shared policy about holding team meetings in conference rooms or meeting rooms rather than in the shared space.

    However, when workplace conflict does arise, it’s important that you’re able to recognize the conflict and resolve it. Josselyne Herman-Saccio, a communication expert with Landmark Forum, reviews her process for understanding how and why communication can falter and cause conflict. “There are seemingly countless unique reasons why people get upset,” she says. “In fact, though, they can all be broken down into three basic areas: undelivered communication, thwarted intention, and unfulfilled expectation.”

    When you’re part of a conflict and you feel yourself becoming upset, Herman-Saccio advises that you ask yourself a few questions--related to the three basic areas she outlines--about what’s bothering you. She suggests asking yourself: “What is it I’m not saying? What accomplishment didn’t happen? Which of my expectations weren’t met?”

    In her article for Landmark Forum, Josselyne Herman-Saccio also reviews the concrete steps that one can take to move past conflict and communicate more effectively. She advises people to skip the blame and aim for solutions. “Acknowledge the reason for your upset to the other person without using any blaming statements,” she says. “A good first step is to try to use the word ‘you’ as little as possible.” She also explained that it’s important not to take things personally in regards to workplace conflict, and that you should always endeavor to keep the lines of communication open.


    “By keeping the lines of communication open, being accountable for our own feelings of upset and not assuming responsibility for those of others, we can begin to dissolve the tension around disagreements,” she says.

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