How to Deal with People Problems to Reduce Conflict in the Workplace

Joyce Weiss

That annoying co-worker…your demanding boss…the customer who can never be satisfied. Every day we all deal with people problems – those individuals who get under your skin and make you shake your head in disbelief. This article will help you reduce conflict in the workplace.

Since you do have to interact with others in some form, avoiding people isn’t the answer. You need to deal with these “people problems” effectively so everyone can win. The following steps will help.

1. Pick your battles
Just because your co-worker or employee has 15 annoying habits that grate on your nerves doesn’t mean you have to address all 15 at once. Pick the one issue or behavior that matters most or causes the most grief and start there. And remember to state the problem in specific terms using facts.

2. Analyze the situation
Before you confront the person, think about the situation from his or her point of view. For example, if the person is rude to everyone, could he or she be under stress or suffering from an illness, either physical or mental? What assumptions are you making about the person? Very often, what you see is not what you get. So even though someone may appear rude, negative, or angry, very often that behavior has nothing to do with you or your workplace but a totally unrelated issue.

3. Set your objectives
In a perfect world, what would you like the person to do differently? And since we don’t live in a perfect world, what outcome are you willing to settle on? Once you have the desired result in mind, think about how you could help the person make the change. After all, if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.

4. Meet with the person to discuss the problem
Pick a location that is neutral territory and ask the person to meet you there so you can discuss your working relationship. Explain to the person the behavior problem without accusing and without using “you” statements. For example, if the person is rude and always yelling at you, you can say, “I feel helpless when I’m yelled at for no apparent reason because I can’t figure out what I did wrong or how to fix it.” As you talk, keep focused on the behavior you want to change and not the person. Be sure to mention your objectives and how you plan to help.

5. Decide on a course of action
By talking it out, it’s very likely that you and the other person will come up with multiple solutions to the problem. Which alternative would be better and is more realistic? As long as you stay open and receptive to doing your part to fix the problem, the obvious solution will become apparent. Remember, not all problems are about the other person. People problems are often a two-way street.

Dealing with people problems can certainly be a challenge. But by addressing the problem in a direct and respectful way, you can head off any problems before they become unmanageable. When you do your part to fix any people problems, both you and your company benefit from your efforts. You will also see a reduction of conflict in the workplace.

Joyce Weiss - coach, consultant, and facilitator
Copyright 2011 Author retains ownership. All Rights Reserved

Print page