Working with people you don't see eye to eye with, or can't get along with, can make any job miserable. Every office, school, organization has that one person who lives to make trouble. Even if the majority of your coworkers are wonderful and you all get along most of the time, there will be conflict of some kind or other. It is human nature to avoid uncomfortable conflict but avoiding the unpleasantness is not a smart decision in the long run.
It is estimated that eight hours of time is wasted in gossip and unproductive activities for every conflict that is not addressed. Add up the unresolved issues in your workplace. That's a ton of wasted time! Understanding what you can do to help manage your role in conflicts can be incredibly helpful to both your job and your mental health! Especially if you find yourself in a leadership position, the following tips will help you to stop putting off conflict resolution and start tackling them head on.
Handling conflict in the early stages is the key to achieving resolutions that both parties can live with. Thee reason conflicts escalated and turn into large problems is because nobody did anything about it. Waiting for the other party to come and discuss the issue is like waiting for pigs to fly. Take the initiative, step up and confront the issue head on.
If discussing the issue directly is uncomfortable, you can approach the other person and ask WHY they did or said something. Asking them for an explanation in a polite manner may open your eyes to their motivation. You may even find yourself understanding! Don't assume they did what they did to get under your skin. They may have no idea that you're upset and asking can open a conversation to stop the conflict in its tracks.
For ongoing clashes with the same person, a different approach is probably best. Trying to discuss issues while in passing has probably not been effective. Again, take the initiative and schedule a time to sit down with your coworker. Invite them to set aside a half hour and meet in a quiet location. Take the time to figure out what you want to say and how to say it in a way that cannot be taken as an attack. A defensive person is unwilling to hear what you want them to hear! Make sure you listen with open ears as well.
If all else fails, ask for help! There is no shame in going to a person higher up and asking for mediation or to provide an unbiased opinion on how to resolve the conflict. An HR representative, your manager, supervisor, whoever you trust, is more than willing to help figure out a solution that works for everyone involved. Let your coworker know that you've requested a third party to be present at a meeting so they don't feel bombarded. Go in open minded and a resolution is sure to present itself.
As professionals, we don't have to like each other enough to be friends, but respecting each other for our strengths and being able to get along for the good of the company is a must.