When people are in arguments at work these scenarios dominate:

‘I hate her guts’.

‘Who does he think is questioning my authority in front of others’.

‘Why is this happening to me – I wish I could respond better’

All of the above are emotional assessments we make which do not help. This blog explains the ecosystem and human issues that contribute to workplace conflict and questions you can use to be more effective.

David Mitchell says “Perhaps all human interaction is about wanting and getting”.  It is in this process we end up with conflicts due to differences of viewpoints, thoughts, and experiences.

Some Reasons Why Arguments Arise at Work

Many factors contribute to conflicts in workplaces. It could be due to interpersonal issues between peers and team members. Arguments could also stem from organizational factors. Let us understand  a few contributors:

  1. Organizational structure: Hierarchy in certain organizations creates disputes when some individuals feel disrespected or are treated unfairly by people in power.  The imbalance in power often contributes to conflicts within the organization.
  2. Competition: Workplace environments include competition for the available resources, opportunities, and recognition. Individuals may engage in arguments as a means to protect their interests & assert themselves.
  3. Communication Challenge: Poor communication and incomplete communication leads to confusion and frustration in workplaces. When messages are unclear it can result in conflicts over expectations, division of responsibility, and in some cases goals too.
  4. Work pressure & stress: Work environments can be stressful when there are tight deadlines to be met coupled with high expectations and huge workloads. Under pressure, people are prone to more arguments as patience wears thin and emotions take over.
  5. Differences in perspectives: In an organization people come from diverse backgrounds, with many opinions, experiences, and points of view.  A clash in these could lead to arguments.
  6. Attitudes & Personalities: Not everyone in the workplace has the same kind of personality traits, communication style, work preferences, etc. These differences fuel friction.

During arguments at work, it is essential to maintain professionalism & not be carried away by the strong emotions that we might experience.

The upside to having provocative conversations at work

When we are at the cusp of an argument in the workplace it is beneficial to take a step back. It is wisdom to evaluate our need to argue. Rather than escalating the argument to the next level it benefits to focus on the resolution of the issue at hand.

Asking ourselves some questions is helpful to bring the attention back to navigating the issue at hand.  Questions enable us to bring in:

  • Much needed clarity in our thought process.
  • Help us label the emotions that we may experience.
  • Clear out the web of confusion clouding our thoughts.
  • Helps to broaden our perspective.
  • Bring the focus to the root of the problem which is the cause of the argument.

Here are 12 questions that you should ask yourself during arguments at work:

1. Goal & Intention

Question yourself on your legitimate goal achievement by indulging in the argument.

  • What exactly will this argument accomplish for me?
  • How can I steer this argument towards a positive outcome?

2. Listen

Ask yourself

  •  Am I listening to what the other person is saying, to understand the situation?
  •  Am I listening just so that I can take my chance to speak next?

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3. Consequences

There are consequences to all our actions so ask

  • Have I thought about what happens next after I say this?

4. Interpretations

Be open-minded enough to ask yourself

  • Should I seek clarifications and interpretations for what I understand?
  • Could the issue be something else that I am unable to grasp?

5. Focus

  • Am I honestly focusing on the real issue at hand?
  • Am I bringing any personal bias into my understanding and judgment?
  • Am I being dismissive and judgmental?

6. Collaborate

  • Is there any other way to reframe the issue so I invite collaboration?

7. Communicate

  • Can I communicate effectively but remain respectful and professional?
  • Am I communicating at my optimal best or am I being defensive?

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8. Facts & Evidence

A sure-shot way to gain support for the argument presented is to back it up with data. Ask

  • Do I have enough facts and evidence to support my claim or am I only relying on my opinions?

9. Accountability

  • Am I  willing to acknowledge my misunderstanding and mistake during the argument and take ownership of what transpired?
  • Is this an argument truly about a work issue?

10. Emotions

  • Which emotional need of mine is neglected that this conflict can satisfy?
  • Can I actively manage my emotions so that the argument doesn’t escalate further?

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11. Compromise

  •  Am I willing to reach a compromise with the other to amicably sort out the argument?
  • Would I be comfortable if I chose to compromise?

12. Solution

  • What are the underlying reasons for this disagreement & how best can I address them?
  • Have I considered potential solutions that might satisfy both parties?

Physis’s relational intelligence program SALT empowers stakeholders with tools to navigate difficult relationships with peers, partners, and management.

Recommended read:

Relational Intelligence Program

Do you have any more questions that we could ask ourselves that could prove to be useful during arguments at work? I would love to hear from you.

Resources : Do watch this TedTalk by Liz Kislik on conflicts at work and what you can do to fix it here.

Digital Unusual

Digital Unusual

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