Articles, Blog

How to Handle Conflict: Crash Course Business – Soft Skills #13

September 27, 2019


Reality shows make a living off of conflict. Sometime we love to get cozy on a couch, grab
some snacks, and watch groups of people with ridiculous hair extensions throw drinks in each others’ faces. But we can’t live our lives by picking a
fight every single time we get irritated. Especially at work. Handling conflict takes finesse and thought. And most confrontation comes down to having
a calm yet difficult conversation. So today, we’re going to talk about some
tactics to manage conflict, help you give effective feedback, and show you how to apologize
in a way that counts. I’m Evelyn from the Internets. And this is Crash Course Business: Soft Skills [Intro Music Plays] Whether you’re in a group of 12 twenty-somethings
locked in a house together, or just officemates working on a team project, you’re bound
to have conflict. Or at least one person you don’t like working
with. It’s just human nature. People have different working styles, communication
styles, and generally like different things. And conflict can pop up over anything, like
miscommunications, different leadership styles, or unfairness. But guess what? We’re adults. And this isn’t Jerry Springer. So we need to find ways to get along, or it’s
going to affect our professional reputations. The only person we ever fully understand
is ourself. We’re all influenced by social perception. People see things differently, and we make
assumptions based on our own experiences. So to really understand someone else’s perspective
and get to the heart of an issue, we have to sit down and listen to what they have to
say. There are 5 general strategies to approach
conflict. Many people favor 1 or 2, but like they say
in finance, you need to “diversify your portfolio.” Conflicts are complicated and some resolution
styles work best in different situations. Each strategy has a different level of assertiveness,
which is directly asking for what we want, and cooperativeness, which is our willingness
to work with others. Sometimes you can solve conflicts by simply
dividing something up, like a distributive negotiation or splitting a check. In that case, compromising may be the best
bet, which is bargaining for a solution that satisfies everyone. Although you might end up satisfying nobody
instead. Compromise is an easy default, especially
since no one walks away feeling cheated. But if the conflict is more complicated than
that, like solving a dispute between departments, think back to negotiations. It may be worth trying collaboration, which
is searching for a creative solution that meets everyone’s needs. Collaboration can be tricky. To do it, you need to build up a baseline
level of trust, so you can assert yourself but people know you’re looking out for them
too. It always takes time and effort to find creative
solutions. But sometimes, things need to be done, like, now. If you’re dealing with getting a product
printed before deadline, it may be worth giving an authoritative command, or using your authority
to force someone into giving you what you need. There are downsides to a lot of assertiveness
without much cooperation, though. Maybe you’ve worked retail and dealt with
someone who demands to speak to your manager because you can’t fill their unreasonable
request. No, I cannot check in the back for you, Karen. So using a conflict management style with
a bit more finesse will protect your reputation in the long term. In some cases, you may want to accommodate,
which is basically agreeing to a solution to make others happy — like meeting over
your lunch break when you wanted personal time. Accommodation can help smooth over tricky
situations, but too much could mean you miss out on opportunities. Or it could give you a reputation as a doormat. And you deserve to embrace your worth and
assert what you want! But if a conflict really isn’t your problem,
it may be best to avoid getting involved and choose avoidance. Avoidance isn’t super realistic in the long-term,
though. You can’t sashay away from every workplace
conflict just because you’re afraid or uncomfortable. Now, harassment is a separate, very complicated
issue that could have its own video series. If you’re dealing with an abusive situation
or inappropriate behavior like catcalling — or worse — then we recommend going to
a trusted third party. That could be your boss, a therapist, or a
human resources rep you trust. Systems for dealing with harassment are far
from perfect, and some companies have arbitrators that are more concerned with policy than people. So everyone’s story is different, and unfortunately,
there isn’t usually an easy answer. Even in smaller-scale situations, though,
you could bring in a third party to help resolve conflict. Like, there’s the HR department, a mediator,
or an ombudsperson, which is an investigator who specializes in mistreatment and conflict
resolution. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. You’ve been working at a consulting firm
for a couple of months. It’s basically your dream job. The pay is fantastic, the companies are interesting,
and you’re on a great team… mostly. There’s creative tension between you and
one of your teammates — you never really clicked. You can deal with the cold shoulder and some
disagreement on project execution. It’s been manageable because your back-and-forth
usually creates new ideas. But recently, they’ve been rude towards
you during client presentations, which is unprofessional. It’s not a drastic issue that affects
the whole team, so you decide to talk to them after work. And together, you collaborate to come up with
a plan to communicate more directly with each other. Especially before big presentations. So that situation is back on track, but there’s
another problem. Your office is dog-friendly. And your cubicle-mate’s dog is mostly fine…
except he regularly pees on the corner of your desk. You’ve brought it up with your coworker,
who has promised to take him out more frequently, but it hasn’t really happened. And you’re sick of smelling dog pee. So you decide to go the office HR rep and
talk with them. By the end of the week, a memo is emailed
out issuing a “dog code of conduct” for the office, along with a formal complaint
system. Because of this third-party intervention,
your coworker starts to train their dog more and take him out for a long walk on lunch
breaks. And soon, you’ve got your space back. Thanks, Thought Bubble! Third parties can help give negative feedback
in an objective way, especially if the conflict could get heated. But negative feedback is common in the office
for simple things too, like presentation skills or communication. We all have skills we need to practice and
habits we need to change. And like good judges on talent competitions,
when we’re delivering negative feedback, there’s a basic structure we can use to
make sure it hits home. First, point out the specific behavior that
could be improved by providing examples. Next, discuss its impact. For feedback to be valuable, we need to explain
why there’s a problem and why this thing matters. Just saying we dislike something could be
a personal preference, and isn’t helpful. Then, we need to be explicit about what needs
to change. We can’t expect people to read our minds
or just know how to fix something. So, for example, someone on your team might
be missing deadlines. You could point out a couple times that happened,
explain that the late work is throwing off the team, and tell them to prepare their work
at least a day before it’s due. When you’re sharing negative feedback, recognize
that not everyone gives and receives it in the same way. Just look at Gordon Ramsay compared to the
judges on Great British Bake Off. Feedback styles even vary by culture. In America, we tend to give negative feedback
with the Oreo method — sandwiching it between two things that the person is doing well. So, you might say, “Your project ideas were
very creative, but your presentation style was too casual and didn’t match the professionalism
of your deliverables. Your enthusiasm was good though, and you should
use that energy with future clients too!” But not everyone wants a sugar-filled Oreo. Some cultures tend to give blunter negative
feedback, like, “Your presentation style was too casual. Please work on your tone during delivery.” And other cultures are more indirect, like
an office-wide announcement that “professionalism is important when presenting to clients.” The goal of negative feedback should always
be to help someone improve, not tear them down. So be aware of who you’re speaking to, and
how they perceive conflict. To soften the blow, you can frame negative
feedback as an opportunity for improvement. And if you’re on the receiving end, try
not to take negative feedback personally. Rejection stings and no one likes to hear
what they’re doing wrong. But it’s a way to learn from our mistakes. No one would be able to improve their smize
without feedback from Tyra. So we should thank the people who give us
feedback for their time, explain how we’re going to follow-up, and then actually change
our behavior. Actions speak louder than words. And if we’re receiving negative feedback
because we messed up, we may want to apologize too. Maybe you accidentally ate your coworkers
yogurt from the fridge, you were late to an important meeting, or you let someone down. We were all rooting for you, Tiffany! Apologies can go a long way. They may not change the outcome, but they
can make people feel better — as long as they’re sincere. We’ve all gotten a superficial “So sorry!”
at some point. It’s frustrating, right? In general, it helps to really listen to others
and avoid getting defensive if we’re approached about a possible mistake. Messing up can be embarrassing, and knowing
what situations warrant apologies is not always straightforward. And it’s not easy to offer up a sincere
apology. But there are three simple steps that can
make your apology count. First, admit that you were wrong and say that
you’re sorry. No one likes to be wrong, but it’s not a
sign of weakness. It happens to all of us. And apologies are a way to diffuse drama and
show someone you’re sincere about working with them. Big grudges are just exhausting in real
life. Keep it simple with something like, “I’m
sorry I did that.” Or, “I know what I did was wrong.” And avoid the non-apology. “I’m sorry you feel that way” doesn’t
cut it, because you’re not owning up to your actions. It sounds like you don’t agree that you
did something wrong. I’m also sorry I feel this way. But what are you going to do about it, Brad? Next, show them you understand that what you
said or did hurt them. Don’t keep justifying yourself with, “I
didn’t mean to…”, “I had a good reason to…” or “I was just trying to…” Not everything is about you. Then, tell them what you’re going to do
differently so it doesn’t happen again. And make an effort to actually do better. Apologies can change depending on who you’re
apologizing to. If you hit a stranger’s car, you’d want
to focus on restoring the balance by paying for damages. If you let down your boss, though, you’d
focus more on your working relationship and next steps. And just to be clear, you don’t need to
apologize for everything. Think critically about it. Did you speak up inappropriately, or are you
just apologizing for speaking up at all? Are you apologizing for apologizing too much? It takes time and effort to master apologies,
feedback, and conflict. So, if you’re still figuring things out,
don’t worry. We all are. Just remember to: 1. Use conflict resolution styles for different
situations. 2. Think about who you’re giving negative feedback
to and how to deliver it, because communication styles vary. 3. Apologize sincerely, and don’t make it about
you. We’ve talked about teamwork. But what happens when you’re in charge? Next time, we’ll get into what leadership
is beyond the buzzwords, and how to master it. Thanks for watching Crash Course Business. If you want to help keep all Crash Course
free for everybody, forever, you can join our community on Patreon. And if you want to learn more about difficult
subjects, check out this Crash Course Philosophy video about discrimination:

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