Managing Conflict in the Workplace

Ever just release a big sigh when someone in our office does not meet expectations? What do you say in those moments of workplace conflict?  

Melanie prides herself on knowing all employees and knowing who is where most of the time. She happens to be walking down the hall from a morning leadership meeting, and sees Joel, the front desk administrator, arrive thirty minutes late wearing a short sleeve shirt.  The company has a “no short sleeve” shirts dress code.

In that moment, Melanie chooses a response.  

Which response do you support? 

  1. Melanie remarks, “nice of you to show up,” glances at her watch, rolls her eyes and her shoes hit the ground a little extra forcefully as she walks away.  She mutters under her breath, “who wears a shirt like that to an office?”
  1. Melanie comments, “I noticed you arrived 15 minutes late, I am glad you are okay.” I also see you are wearing a short sleeve shirt, “do you have a shirt with long sleeves with you, or would you like to borrow a company button down?” She then asks, “would you like to talk more about all this now or at 3:30 today? and what can I do to help you show up on time tomorrow?”

Melanie has every right to feel disappointment or frustration.  

Feeling what she feels is not the issue.  

You always get to feel whatever you feel. What you do with those feelings makes the difference. 

Usually, conflict shows up first inside yourself. Your feelings tell you whether you are content with the way things are or experiencing discontent.  

Acknowledging your feelings, and noticing your need behind it, helps you get clarity about what is at issue. It also allows you an opportunity to offer yourself some compassion, since the person in front you very well may not.  

Knowing what is happening beneath the surface helps you align your actions with your values. Then you may create results by design rather than by default.  

Melanie, wishing for professionalism and respect, increases the level of both by acknowledging Joel as a person first, and treating him with respect. She then models the behavior she seeks from him, as well as her colleagues and staff.  

By being professional and respectful, Melanie may more likely obtain respect and see professionalism from Joel going forward.  

Seeing Joel as a person who has a reason for being late opens space for compassion. Whether she finds his reason acceptable may be a different story,  

Being curious about Joel’s needs, and clear about her needs and expectations, goes a long way in creating the respect she seeks.  

During their later meeting, Melanie first seeks to understand Joel’s perspective and what he needs. She admits that she feels frustrated with his both his lateness and attire. It meant no one was at the front desk the first 30 minutes, and another executive assistant who already has a high workload took the calls during that time. The company’s values of respect and professionalism matter both internally and externally. These core values align with timeliness and show why a dress code matters. They discussed what support he needs to succeed and align with those values.

What keeps the lines of communication open in your workplace? How do you stay in alignment with corporate values both internally and externally?

Sherry Ann Bruckner

Sherry Ann Bruckner

Sherry Ann Bruckner, JD, enjoys helping you bridge the gap from where you are to where you wish to be. An attorney, mediator, coach, speaker, and trainer, she strongly believes in the transformational power of clarity, compassion, curiosity, and cribbage.

Sherry Ann invites and encourages you to consider your own level of peace. Inner peace creates outer peace and personal peace leads to world peace. You may find her enjoying a game or hiking a state park. Sherry Ann lives near Alexandria, Minnesota. Visit brucknermediation.com/services to learn more or give her a call at (320) 808-3212.
Sherry Ann Bruckner

Be gentle with you. Be gentle with all. Be the peace.