When we find ourselves in conflict with a co-worker we tend to attribute it to personality differences. Even if we don’t know the other person very well, we may jump to conclusions based on limited exposure, perhaps stereotyping them as a “micromanager”, or “competitive.” But although it’s cognitively efficient to categorize, labeling is toxic in conflict resolution.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, organizational consultant Ben Dattner points out that management and corporate culture may inadvertently create conflict between individuals. For instance, roles and levels of authority may not be well defined, or individuals’ interests may be truly opposed because they have been given incentives to compete rather than collaborate.
To assess whether a conflict is situational, start by asking yourself, “What conflicts might be experienced by any two people in the roles we have?” Then ask your colleague the same question. You may find common ground and can jointly approach those in leadership to reconsider the dynamics that are generating the conflict.
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