Conflict - It's Not Make Believe

We know that conflict is a necessary ingredient in a good story, but how about at work? Well, it can be positive if it’s managed and optimized. Conflict can lead to innovation and creativity resulting in business growth and success. Mean-spirited conflict, on the other hand, is great in a mystery, but at work it can derail relationships quickly. 

Barbara and I have written two books about conflict – The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook and The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book. Writing non-fiction is admittedly different from writing fiction. Non-fiction writers don’t have to make stuff up. There is plenty of real-life conflict and drama and ready-made villains to write about. 

So who are the villains in our books? In The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook we pose a number of situations drawn from workplace situations. There’s Renata with an abrasive personality. In meetings she’s especially aggressive, cutting people off when they are talking and making snide remarks about ideas they are proposing. What do you say to someone who is so rude and disrespectful? Sometimes the right words escape you, especially in a tense situation.

In The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book we took on the challenge of addressing these situations by providing prompts to help readers formulate their own thoughts so the words don’t come out wrong. Renata could say, “Every time you interrupt, you’re undermining the meeting.” 

Then there’s Lorraine, the manager who’s obviously intimidated by Lars, a new employee accomplished in his profession. She responds to his input in meetings with snarky comments and sarcasm, even belittling his work credentials. Lars could respectfully confront her by saying, “Please don’t call me out publically like you just did in the meeting.” 

What else can you say when a situation gets toxic? 

  • If you want to make jokes or criticize, please get your facts straight.
  • Statements like that just provoke bad feelings. They’re not respectful.
  • This is a professional workplace. There’s no room in it for coarse language.

What if someone tries to pull you into a situation and get you to take their side? How could you respond?

  • You’re complaining to me about my coworker, but the situation is between you and her.
  • Stop talking about him and talk to him.
  • You can’t keep running in here every time he says or does something you don’t like.

Finally, there are things you should absolutely avoid saying, such as:

  • You just don’t think!
  • This is all your fault.
  • Such a nasty person.

Whatever the situation, responding to differences, building team spirit, setting expectations, or giving feedback, The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book will help the words come out right!

Give the gift of Positive Conflict this holiday season -- The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book!

Cornelia Gamlem

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