Bring to mind a conflict at work, and you’ll probably think of a perpetrator. We spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about or fighting with colleagues. To effectively manage conflict, you have to understand your own role in arguments and find out how to break the frustration-stress-conflict cycle of workplace wars, says Annie McKee for an article on hbr.org.
She says that when the cycle begins, constant challenges appear and frustration builds. Then, people shift blame on others, which leads to toxic emotions and high stress levels. Stress then feeds conflict, and conflict breeds anger. In this kind of state, people lash out and the vicious cycle becomes an endless loop.
If you want to break the cycle and have fewer destructive conflicts at work, follow these 3 steps:
Step 1: Develop self-awareness. Recognize what causes you to feel threatened. This sounds easy, but people typically put self-reflection last on their list. Telling yourself you don’t have time to “work on yourself” will keep you stuck in a rut at work. Make time to figure out what kinds of situations send you into the stratosphere. The more you know about your triggers, the better you can control your emotions.
Step 2: Employ emotional self-control. Once you know what drives your behavior, you can employ emotional self-control. This is what enables us keep emotions in check so that we don’t get stuck in a bad mood. You can manage your anger, so you can see reality through a clear lens and not lash out.
Step 3: Build friendships at work. To minimize stress and conflict at work, we need to replace “I” with “We.” This team-oriented shift would result in less stress and fewer negative emotions. It would also lead to friendlier relationships — something most people need and want at work.
Developing self-awareness, increasing your emotional self-control, and recharging relationships at work takes commitment, but you don’t have to remake yourself to improve how you deal with strife. Here are a few practical tips to help you with the above steps:
Build mindfulness practices into daily life. Something as simple as taking a walk is invaluable when it comes to developing self-awareness and short-circuiting the stress response. Take time to clear your mind and calm down during conflict.
Take time to reflect. Reserve 20 minutes at the end of each week to reflect on what went well and what didn’t. It will help self-awareness and self-control.
Think about others. Sometimes we forget to do this, especially at work. Make a point to ask yourself questions that help you understand someone’s point of view because you could be more alike than you think. Try these:
- What are they thinking about the situation?
- How are they different from me? How are we the same?