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4 Tips for Resolving Conflict With Your Employer

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Note: This article does not contain legal advice.  If you would like advice on your specific situation, please contact Spraggs Law.

At least 85 percent of employees report experiencing conflict at work. These conflicts can range from clashes in personalities and working styles to issues arising from poor communication or even a toxic work environment.

It’s estimated that employees spend two hours a week dealing with conflict, which can add up to a massive loss of productivity throughout the year. As a result, managers are motivated to identify and solve workplace conflict.

However, what do you, as an employee, do when you have an argument with the person that’s supposed to be solving these problems — your boss?

Workplace Conflict May Just Be a Clash in Communication Styles

While employees can experience serious discord at work, including pay disputes, workplace safety and even harassment and bullying, often conflict with a boss or supervisor boil down to differences in communication styles.

“Poor, ineffective communication results in missed deadlines, missed opportunities and misunderstandings,” says one workplace mediation consultant. “People send mixed messages, say one thing and do another, don’t follow through or don’t listen.”

While unintended, poor communication between supervisor and employee can result in disagreements, frustration and distrust. Employees in particular can feel powerless and discouraged. However, for some problems, there are four tips basic tips that can help resolve conflicts with your employer.

1. Don’t Bring in HR… Yet

If you are experiencing workplace friction rather than something more serious likethan harassment, it’s a good idea to try to work things out with your boss first. Sometimes a simple conversation can help serve as a reset and defuse a conflict. Still, be sure to document your interactions with your supervisor as you try to resolve the problem, in case you need to ask HR later for help.

As well, blowing off steam and complaining to your workmates can also make things worse while lowering the morale of your team.

2. Cool Off First

If you’re frustrated with a supervisor, make sure you cool off before doing anything. If you write an email to your boss when you’re in an angry mood, don’t send it. Instead, reread it the following day, or after the weekend, once you’ve had time to collect your thoughts and calm down.

3. Identify and Articulate the Conflict

It’s not unusual in workplace conflicts that one person may be totally unaware that there is a problem at all. Or, there may be different interpretations of the nature of the problem. So, before approaching your supervisor, try to clearly articulate what problem is causing the conflict, and what you think the solution ought to be. And then ask for their feedback and ideas.

Remember — try to articulate the problem succinctly, and in neutral terms. Use “I” statements“, and don’t point the finger at your boss. Focus on the problem, and never the person responsible for the behaviour.

4. Understand Your Emotional “Triggers”

Very few people enjoy conflict — including your boss — which can make resolving problems challenging. On top of that, few of us understand how to recognize and manage our own emotions, which can interfere with having a hard conversation with someone else.

We may find that certain situations, interactions or even words can trigger fear or anger, or at least how we behave in an uncomfortable interaction. In order to avoid this problem when having a discussion with your supervisor, try to imagine the interaction beforehand, paying attention to how you can best respond to criticism or any other emotional triggers.

Questions About British Columbia Law?

Sometimes friction is just a fact a life, and no matter how hard you try, you may have a less than perfect relationship with your supervisor. However, try to focus your energy on finding ways to make it better if you can.  And, as always, if you have any questions about labour standards, be sure to contact one of our employment lawyers in Vancouver.