Interpersonal conflict

Sunday March 21 2021
azim pic

Teamwork needs people to manage better their interpersonal conflicts, a feature that is not uncommon at the workplace. Learn how to manage such situations. PHOTO | FILE

By Azim Jamal

Conflict situations at the workplace can be caused by a number of reasons, ranging from personality differences to prejudiced beliefs and opinions.

If viewed constructively, they can provide great opportunities for greater learning and self-evaluation. However, if there is a definite and consistent pattern of negative interaction with someone, stronger measures are needed.

A manipulator is usually invested in meeting their own goals by controlling and influencing others, often at the cost of the latter’s sense of personal freedom or wellbeing. Their behaviours range from gossiping or bad mouthing, to emotional blackmail, discrediting others, distorting facts, lying or being insincere, deflecting the issue at hand when confronted or even using veiled threats. This behaviour is often a derived from the manipulator’s own insecurities, their flawed world view and their consequent attempt at self-validation.

However, there are ways in which you can put a stop to such a behaviour.

1. Be conscious of your rights and set boundaries – Every individual has basic rights in the workplace including the right to be respected, right to be able to express their needs and opinions, the freedom to set their priorities as well as protect themselves from emotional, mental and physical injury. Hence it’s important to set and specify boundaries, if others do not respect this right.

2. Question the behaviour – Ask probing questions to bring the manipulator to question their own intent behind their demand. Often this measure alone will bring their unjust expectations out in the open and compel them to withdraw. For example, you can ask questions like:


• Are you asking me or telling me?”

• Is what you are demanding fair?

• Would you like to hear my opinion?

• Does this seem reasonable to you?

• Are you really expecting me to do this?

3. Deliberate and the respond – Do not give in to the pressure of responding to their demand right away. Tell them, you need time to think it through. Then distance yourself from that person, assess the demand calmly and calibrate your response accordingly.

4. Be clear in your communication – Don’t expect them to understand. Tell them what you want precisely and ensure your tone and body language support your speech.

5. Be assertive – Do not back down in face of drama or threats. Do not let any issue linger by being vague or displaying hesitation in doing what you think is right. Repressing any issue only builds it up, often leading to an emotional outburst later, which shows you in a poor light. Say no if you have to. If expressed, politely and firmly, it can help position you strongly, while retaining a workable relationship.

6. Attack the behaviour, not the person – A person is more than a sum total of his behaviour. If you attack the person instead of his behaviour, you are in a way encouraging him to perpetuate the latter by associating it with his personality. Also focusing only on the behaviour will help you to disassociate emotionally from the situation and respond objectively.

7. Document your work – If you are working with this person, its best to document all communication and evidence of work. This can come in handy while presenting your case or preventing the manipulator from discrediting your contribution.

8. Ask for help – If the person persists in his behaviour or the situation worsens, take help from your boss or superior. Have a one to one meeting and explain the situation. Stick to facts and refrain from judgment. Do not label the manipulator or display overt sensitivity. Remain calm and objective!