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Dealing with Workplace Conflict Using EI

Dealing with Workplace Conflict Using EI

A workplace brings together people with different life experiences, perspectives, and communication styles. That’s why workplace conflict of some kind will inevitably arise. In a social setting, people can simply choose to limit interactions. At work, however, it is a different story. Sometimes, whether you like it or not, you will have to work with people you don’t see eye to eye with. 

There are many reasons for having good working relationships. Your employees/coworkers can enhance your productivity, contribute to your emotional well-being, and broaden your mind, impacting new ideas and innovation. Emotions affect your interactions with others. Understanding your emotions will allow you to connect more authentically and communicate more effectively with your coworkers and teams. 

When you think of your relationships as investments, you will realize that the more you contribute, the more rewarded you will be in the long term. One positive side effect of good relationships with coworkers is collaboration and strengthening friendships. 

Building and strengthening relationships takes time and energy, but it is worth it. Engaging in conversations about emotions is one of the many actions you can take as a leader to boost business practices and improve performance and overall well-being. Establishing meaningful connections with your employees can change their lives and yours. 

At the centre of these conflicts are strong emotions that are not being addressed. As a leader, you may need to step in. Don’t be afraid of emotions—yours or those of your teams. 


Resolve Conflicts By Using Emotional Intelligence 

Ongoing conflicts in the office not only hurt the individuals involved, but the underlying tensions also impact the whole team. In such cases, leaders must intervene. Helping create an environment where your employees can thrive and feel good about coming to work is a fundamental part of your job as a manager. 

The challenge is when you don’t share how you feel, and people are left guessing how you feel by your actions. There can be a disconnect between your actual feelings and demonstrated behaviours. 

Unresolved or misplaced emotions can lead to dissatisfaction and, ultimately, can negatively taint relationships. Conflict resolution is an important skill, yet many of us lack it. 

Step One: Learn about the conflict COMMUNICATE

Give your employees a safe space to express their emotions. Pushing emotions down is a form of conflict avoidance, which leads to resentment and explosive reactions. Encouraging your employees to communicate their feelings early on can avoid adverse emotional responses in the future. 

Pause before you react. Take a deep breath and pause for a few seconds whenever you feel triggered by someone, something, or a situation. This grounding exercise will allow you to consciously choose how to respond. To create a healthy company culture as a leader based on emotional intelligence, you must lead by example. 

Encourage your employees to…

  • Be specific about how you are feeling.
  • Stop and breathe to calm yourself down and speak professionally and respectfully.
  • Describe the behaviour first, then your feelings.
  • Be specific about your emotions; rather than saying good or bad, describe how you are feeling.
  • Avoid the word “but,” as it negates every word you said before it.

Step Two: Listen to both sides of the argument EMPATHIZE

Often, the individual involved in the conflict is simply looking for an outlet to vent. As a leader, meet with your employees and become that safe space/outlet. 

Suppose your employees don’t feel they can confide in you or that you don’t care. In that case, they won’t take action to resolve the issue and will turn to their coworkers for this need, leading to office gossip and unnecessary drama that will impair your team’s ability to work together. 

Meet with the employees involved in the conflict and hear all sides of the story. Avoid judgment and be empathetic in these conversations. Remember, conflict in the office is stressful and upsetting; your team will not feel their best. Leaders need to display empathy, meaning they need to be sensitive to what, how, and why people think and feel the way they do. 

Empathy is about being tuned into how others feel and caring about those feelings as much as we do our own. It is critical in building strong interpersonal relationships. Empathy allows us to feel connected to others, learning to understand why other people do the things that they do. When people feel seen, heard, and cared for, that significantly impacts job satisfaction and the employee experience. 

In these conversations…

  • Have limitless curiosity about others so you can genuinely understand where the other person is coming from.
  • Give others the benefit of the doubt and assume the other person has positive intentions.
  • Listen carefully to nonverbal cues by paying attention to what others are saying beyond their words by their tone of voice and body language.
  • Challenge your prejudices and preconceived notions by focusing on similarities, not differences. 

Step Three: Determine the real cause of the problem and suggest a solution PROBLEM SOLVE

With the situation laid entirely out on the table, and you’ve heard both sides of the story, it’s time to determine the root cause of the conflict — what emotions are involved?  

Continue the conversation with your employees. Having them choose a more specific word choice will give you (and themselves) better insight into exactly how they feel, what caused it, and what should be done about it.

Accurately labelling emotions will enable you to make better decisions and understand others better.

It’s important to work with your team to identify their triggers. Once you have named the emotion, figure out what provoked that feeling. ​​Everyone has different triggers, often shaped by their experiences in their lives.

Understanding what pushes your buttons allows you to be in the driver’s seat of your emotions and is an excellent way to determine how you will respond in advance when triggered. Understanding your triggers not only gains a deeper understanding of yourself but allows you to regulate your reactions to others. 

Consider investing in emotional intelligence training programs for your team to become the leader with the tools to help your teams resolve conflict effectively. EI Experience training workshops and online programs that will help you avoid conflict in the future. 

Also, check out The Emotionally Strong Leader for a six-step self-coaching program to help you become a better leader at resolving emotional conflicts and more.

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