Workplace Conflict is a natural phenomenon, but some of us still find it hard to wrap our minds around it. Knowing the attitudes in dealing with conflict can help in embracing problems at work. Seeing workplace conflict as an opportunity to grow instead of solving problems is adaptive not just for an individual employee but also for the company as a whole.
Shifting to an Adaptive View of Conflict
Conflict is inevitable, especially for people who are in executive or leadership positions. The nature of such positions even implies that the people aspiring for such endeavors must be problem solvers. It is instinctive for us human beings to possess varying views, philosophies, and actions, the precise reasons why conflict may happen in the first place (Myatt, 2012). Even if you aren’t a leader, or at least not yet, embracing workplace conflict early on can help you in facing problems head-on, and going for the root cause can help boost business efficiency and promote harmonious relationships at work.
Opposing Attitudes Toward Conflict
Morton Deutsch, a social psychologist who pioneered the research of conflict resolution, pointed out that there are two opposing attitudes that people have when faced with conflict (Civico, 2019).
The first one is the competitive attitude, which means that for one to win, others must lose. This is stemming from a dichotomous way of thinking; if it’s not white, then it must be black. But in reality, some concepts can be gray. Some behaviors that can be found in a competitive person are impaired communication, obstructiveness, lack of help, constant disagreements, and having the belief that one’s power is enhanced when the power of others is reduced. A competitive attitude results in having a destructive approach towards conflict, affecting people’s performance and results, which is not good for the health of the business and the well-being of the employees.
The second is the cooperative attitude, which is a healthier attitude to adapt. This means that people are not competition per se, but instead are interdependent with each person in the organization. Having a cooperative attitude means that problems are seen as opportunities to make oneself and others win in their own way. The idea is that we do not put each other down, but lift each other up. Some characteristics that people with cooperative attitudes have are effective communication, helpfulness, trust, coordination of efforts, reciprocal respect, and seeing opposing interests as mutual problems to be solved through compromise. Of course, having a cooperative attitude is easier said than done. A lot of employees go through years of rigorous training for sound conflict management, but it’s definitely possible to acquire as long as we put in the work and willingness to elevate and add value not just for ourselves but also for our colleagues and constituents.
Conflict happens in every aspect of our lives. Workplace conflict tends to exhaust most people since generally, one-third of our weekdays are spent working. The most adaptive mindset to have when it comes to conflict is knowing that we don’t have to find the best possible solution there is. As long as we cooperate and be flexible, respectful, and willing to listen to varying perspectives, we can compromise and arrive at a solution that is favorable for everyone (Raypole, 2020). Dealing with conflict does not only mean that we get to solve issues, but it also means that we can find the purpose of each conflict in preparing us for the next challenges to come and contribute to colleagues’ and the business firm’s growth in the process.
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Myatt, M. (2012, February 22). 5 Keys of Dealing with Workplace Conflict. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/02/22/5-keys-to-dealing-with-workplace-conflict/?sh=4f9164a31e95
Civico, A. (2019, February 4). How to Manage Conflict in the Workplace. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/turning-point/201902/how-manage-conflict-in-the-workplace
Raypole, C. (2020, February 10). How to Handle Interpersonal Conflict Like a Pro. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/interpersonal-conflict#what-to-avoid