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Dealing with Negative Feedback and Conflict

April 13, 2023

By Linda Olejniczak, courtesy of SBAM-approved partner, ASE

One of the hardest things about getting feedback is not reacting defensively. Defensiveness in the face of criticism is a perfectly natural response.  The quote, “listen to learn, not to react” is a great standard to live by.

Disputes at work are common since everyone has a difference of opinion. Most often, the disputes raise valid points and lead people to work better. There have been many positive changes at organizations because of business conflicts.

We are humans, and conflicts are only typical. Here are four things you can do if you disagree with a colleague but want to remain supportive.

  1. Keep calm and make sure you understand what they said.
  2. Listen before you leap.
  3. Assume good intentions.
  4. Agree to disagree.

Managers may have to intervene when there is a conflict between coworkers. This is a leader’s most difficult task. Here are some ways to help:

  • Respond early and set clear expectations for each employee.
  • Meet together with all employees. Trust is the foundation for resolving conflict.
  • Start all meetings with a positive.
  • Be aware of your own body language. Relax, breathe, and reduce the tension.
  • Listen, listen and listen.  Often the solution will come out if you allow.
  • Remain objective. All parties may be at fault. All parties may be right or wrong. The goal is to solve the issue.
  • Meet again.  That first meeting was a step in the right direction.  This may take time and strategy.

There are actually benefits when conflict arises. It can raise awareness of a greater problem that needs attention. It can increase productivity and stir that competitive edge amongst team members – helping them to reach their goals. It can help managers and their team address ideas and spur creativity. It allows employees to feel safe when they can speak their minds – psychological safety. It fuels acceptance and encourages respect in the workplace. It can strengthen communication skills.

Take a moment to accept the challenge that the conflict has brought up, and look for the positives it has created.

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