Conflict With Colleagues

In both group coaching and individual coaching, I am consistently asked how to get along with people that we have conflict with – conflict with direct reports, peers, or our bosses. This is a universal problem for local governments and private sector employers as well.Here are three strategies that I’ve found to be extremely effective with my clients as well as myself:

  1. Find something you have in common with the person you have conflict with. Yes, there is at least one thing you have in common besides breathing. I had a boss once who had very ugly behavior with most of the team – equal opportunity ugly - and I dreaded any encounters that I had to have with him. I realized one day that he had a beautiful piece of art hanging in his office. When I asked about the artwork, his entire demeanor changed, and he became very animated discussing his love of art. Bingo! I too, know art (my father is an artist) and I immediately found a connection with him. I made it my mission each weekend to find a new art opening or exhibit in our city so that I could discuss it with him on Mondays. I wouldn’t say we became fast friends, but I will tell you that once we connected, our encounters were much more pleasant.
  2. Learn a bit about their hobbies or family’s hobbies. I had a client who tried everything to connect with another department director to no avail. When she found out that her co-worker’s son was in soccer, we realized that his name and the name of his team was reported in the Sports section of the local newspaper on a weekly basis. She watched for these articles and was able to establish a connection with her colleague discussing his son’s soccer games. They built a strong relationship that resulted in several inter-departmental collaborations.
  3. When you anticipate going into a conflict-ridden meeting, get there early and work the room. Meet people as they are coming into the room, shaking hands and making eye contact. While this may sound simple, remember that simple is profound. I used this strategy time and again when I facilitated HOA meetings and community planning meetings. It is more difficult for people to have ugly behavior with you when they feel a personal connection with you.

As always, I love to hear from you. What strategy have you done that reduced or neutralized conflict?With Love and To Your Success,Maria