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How to Handle Workplace Conflict with Your Boss

  • Posted by: Ellen Kandell
power in conflict

Workplace conflict is stressful and potentially damaging. But when conflict develops between you and your boss, the tension can be amped up significantly. After all, this person has a direct role in the trajectory of your career. Simply put, you and your boss need to be on the same side in order for you to succeed.

Although resolving conflict with your boss involves many of the same techniques as with other employees, you will want to use plenty of finesse in conflict resolution with your boss. Resolving conflicts with him or her requires a delicate approach and effective communication. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Stay Calm and Objective: Before addressing the conflict, take some time to cool down and gather your thoughts. Approach the situation with a clear mind and focus on the facts rather than emotions.
  2. Identify the Issue: Pinpoint the specific issue causing the conflict. Is it a difference in opinion, misunderstanding, or a problem with communication? Understanding the root cause is crucial for finding a solution.
  3. Choose the Right Time and Place: Schedule a private meeting with your boss to discuss the conflict. Choose a time when both of you are free from distractions and can have a constructive conversation.
  4. Express Yourself Professionally: When discussing the issue, be respectful and professional. Use “I” statements to express how you feel without blaming or accusing your boss. For example, say “I feel frustrated when…” instead of “You always…”
  5. Listen Actively: Allow your boss to express their perspective without interrupting. Listen attentively to understand their point of view. This demonstrates respect and shows that you are willing to find a resolution.
  6. Find Common Ground: Look for areas of agreement or common goals that you and your boss share. Focusing on shared objectives can help build rapport and facilitate compromise.
  7. Propose Solutions: Brainstorm potential solutions together and be open to compromise. Offer suggestions for how the conflict can be resolved or mitigated, and be willing to negotiate to find a mutually beneficial outcome.
  8. Follow Up: After the discussion, follow up with your boss to ensure that the agreed-upon solutions are being implemented. Maintain open communication and be proactive in addressing any further issues that may arise.
  9. Seek Mediation if Necessary: If you’re unable to resolve the conflict directly with your boss, consider involving a mediator, such as a human resources representative or a trusted conflict resolution professional, to help facilitate the conversation and find a resolution.
  10. Focus on Moving Forward: Once the conflict is resolved, focus on moving forward positively. Maintain a professional relationship with your boss and strive to prevent similar conflicts in the future by improving communication and addressing issues promptly.

Remember, conflicts are a natural part of any workplace, and how you handle them can demonstrate your professionalism and leadership skills. When conflict with your boss arises, the most important thing you can do is remain calm and objective. Nothing can be gained from anger or disrespect. Even if you are not completely in agreement, sharing your thoughts and opinions openly can enhance your working relationship.

Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She is one of eight Maryland mediators featured on a statewide demonstration video of good mediation practice. Ellen is certified by the International Mediation Institute.  She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse clients in Washington, DC and the US. Get in touch with her via email, and follow her on LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Author: Ellen Kandell

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