How to deal with conflicts in the workplace

As much as we would love to sail through life without any conflicts or problems, we do not live in such a world.  No matter how friendly or professional we are, there are bound to be tension and disagreements in our lives.  The workplace is no exception.

As you prepare for your internship, here are a few things to keep in mind when workplace conflicts arise:

  • Communication is key. Whether the conflict is with your supervisor, another intern, or someone else on the staff, it is always best to communicate.
  • Don’t be afraid to face the problem. It may be intimidating to approach your supervisor about a problem, particularly if they are a part of the conflict; but letting someone know of a problem as soon as it arises with may prevent bigger or more serious problems from developing later.
  • When talking about a problem, remain calm. Convey your point clearly without anger, exaggeration, inflammatory words, or finger pointing. Beginning your communication by flying off the handle will not resolve the problem.  If you begin in a confrontational manner, it is more likely that any sympathy or concern for your point of view will be ignored; and your supervisor or coworker will take a defensive position.
  • Work toward a resolution. Once the lines of communication are opened, you will hopefully be able to resolve the conflict. It may be that the other person involved was unaware of how you feel or didn’t see something as a problem. Work toward a solution that works for both sides. Despite Washington’s reputation for partisan gridlock, it is still possible to forge a compromise in this city.
  • That being said, be prepared for disappointment. Depending on the nature of the problem, you may need to resign yourself to the fact that the issue will not be resolved to your satisfaction or in your favor. Certainly, issues such as sexual harassment or dangerous working conditions need to be addressed in a special fashion and cannot be left unresolved. However, conflicts involving work assignments or personality issues may require that you “suck-it-up” and make the best of a challenging situation.

Learning how to handle workplace disagreements is an important skill to develop as a professional. As you work through these situations this summer, remember that you are learning a lesson that will help you long after your internship has ended.

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