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3 strategies for defusing conflict in the workplace

3 strategies for defusing conflict in the workplace

3 strategies for defusing conflict in the workplace

Effective strategies for defusing conflict or challenging behaviours in the workplace.

If you are ever faced with a challenging or confrontational situation at work, Marcela Slepica of AccessEAP suggests approaching it with these three strategies in mind:

Recognise your own stress signature: When faced with a threat, our bodies experience a collection of responses and our brain activates a threat response even before our conscious mind can process what’s happening. This stress response reduces our capacity for logical thinking so it’s important to take a step back and assess your physical, mental, emotional and behavioural reactions in order to determine the best course of action.

Two people may experience the same situation and have different stress reactions. Being able to determine whether your reaction is normal for you, or one that suggests you are at risk is vital in deciding the next steps and ensuring your own safety. Before engaging further, ensure you are able to think clearly and calmly.

Respond rather than react: It is more effective to respond to a situation rather than to react to the moment. Responding allows us to control the situation, whereas reacting lets it control us. With ‘verbal judo’, it is important not to ignore or dismiss a question. Try not to justify or defend yourself, let them express their frustration and once they have finished, speak with confidence, explain, educate and win their respect.  Do not argue with the other person as this escalates their emotions.  

Avoid statements such as “You wouldn’t understand,” “It’s none of your business,” or “Be reasonable.” Use empathy to absorb tension and instead try statements like, “Let me be sure I understand you correctly.” Your interest allows them to calm down and they will be open to listening because they have been heard. If the situation continues to present a risk, you must withdraw to guarantee your own safety. “I will end this conversation if you continue to yell at me”

Debriefing & self-care: If you experience an incident of challenging behaviour in the workplace, you should seek immediate support from a manager. For less serious incidents, a team discussion and debrief, peer support or other self-care strategies may be sufficient.

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