Each of us responds to conflict in our own way. Many people are uncomfortable with conflict. They try hard to avoid it, sometimes even denying that it exists. Others see conflict as a necessary part of everyday life, especially work life, and they become fairly adept at defusing it or negotiating compromises. Others are excellent manipulators, and they attempt to resolve the conflict by manipulating others or the situation, sometimes in an underhanded way. Still others use the power of their position or authority as a conflict hammer, shutting down conflict without actually resolving it.
To be successful in the work environment, you need to become professionally adept at managing conflict situations. The first step is to take a close look at how you generally handle conflict. Do you try to avoid a person or a subject or situation? Do you try to turn the conflict into a joke, pretend to agree, or play the martyr by giving in, but not letting others forget that you did so? Do you become defensive, rebellious, or angry, even whiny? Do you draw a line in the sand or use your position to shut the conflict down? Or do you try to understand the other point of view, try to narrow the scope of the conflict, and reach a compromise?
If you have trouble identifying your own conflict response syndrome, ask a close friend or two how they think you generally deal with conflict. You may be surprised at their responses and insight.
The next step is to analyze your work environment. Watch how your boss handles conflict. Is there a peacemaker, mediator, or conflict broker in your office? If so, what skills do they possess? Good listening and communication skills? Contingency thinking that broadens the possibility of solutions? Information gathering and clear provision of facts?
While observing, listen carefully to the language and the phrases good intervenors use. Do they encourage discussion and show respect for all opinions? Do they seek alternatives and discuss consequences. Can they diffuse anger and bring others together?
Conflict in any workplace is inevitable. You may never become completely comfortable with it, but to move into management, you need to develop conflict intervention skills. It may take some effort and practice, perhaps even seeking some formal training, but the better you are at managing conflict, the better you will be at managing staff, business issues, and your own career.