Even if you don’t want to admit it, your team needs training for dealing with difficult people. Conflicts can arise among team members who don’t see eye to eye or who have differing communication styles. Angry customers can lash out at your people. Frustrated vendors can send accusatory emails. In all of those situations, your team would benefit from guidance and training for dealing with the difficult person.
Sure, there are some people who are naturally good at dealing with conflict, but most people aren’t. They resort to ineffective conflict management techniques, such as giving the silent treatment, allowing their anger to fester, yelling at the other person or talking behind his or her back. Not only are those responses ineffective for resolving conflicts, but they’re also likely to contribute to lowered morale and reduced productivity.
The popular training kit Detox Your Workplace! provides solid advice and tips for dealing with difficult people in various situations. The following excerpt explains how employees should respond if a conflict turns hostile.
A person confronts you, yelling and gesturing wildly. Your challenge: Hear the person out—without losing your temper. To resolve the problem and avoid a repeat, follow this advice:
- Do not interrupt. If you break into the tirade, you tell the speaker that you are not really listening. You create the impression that you have prejudged the situation and that you are not interested in the other person’s side.
- Stay calm. Train yourself to deal with aggressive people at work in a calm manner. Your goal should be to express yourself assertively, with no hint of aggravation. Don’t tell the other person to “Calm down.”
- Keep your imagination in check. Don’t escalate the situation in your mind. A person who is upset about a current situation does not necessarily plan to stay angry forever.
- Show your willingness. An angry person may feel that you just don’t understand the situation and why it matters. When you have a chance to speak, say “I want to understand.” Then paraphrase what you heard, using your own words, and ask the person if you perceive the situation accurately. Once you are satisfied that you understand fully, you can move toward resolution.
- Use the person’s name. When a conversation takes a hostile turn, call the aggressor by his or her first name. That will draw the person’s attention. Then express your preference for how the conversation should proceed. Example: “Alice, I will listen to you and work to fix the problem, but only if you lower your voice.”
—Adapted from Detox Your Workplace!, www.WorkplaceTrainingCenter.com.
If you provide your staff that kind of training for dealing with difficult people, they’ll be equipped to handle any workplace conflict they run into.
What is your best advice for conflict management in the workplace?
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