Do You Have To Deal With Confrontation At Work Sometimes?

Jul 08, 2016 1 Min Read


When asked what needs to be improved at work, why is it that staff often cite communication amongst the top ten issues that need to be improved?

Communication is something that can always use some improvement and we are all on a journey of continuous improvement when it comes to communicating at work.

Sometimes it doesn’t go well and you find yourself dealing with confrontation at work.

If this happens then we need to find a constructive way of dealing with this.

That is not always easy as confrontation triggers an emotional reaction in us, because we are human. So we need some tools in our communications toolbox to deal with this effectively.

Here are my thoughts on how to deal with confrontation at work:

1. Do keep in mind that you need to make sure that you are in control of your emotions.

We are not machines and if we let ourselves go then our emotional response can trigger fight/flight reactions which will not be conducive to dealing with confrontation at work.

Indeed, it may only make matters worse.

As soon as you feel yourself getting annoyed or angry, your pulse raises, then you need to get control otherwise your emotional state will drive your communications.

Train yourself to recognise the signs of annoyance and take a deep breath, focus and tell yourself that this is simply a problem to solve.

2. Find a way to plan.

If a situation escalates suddenly, see if you can find a way to defer a discussion for a bit later in the day to give yourself time to plan.

If this is not possible then you could try to buy yourself some thinking time by listening to the other side, summarising their viewpoint and reflecting what they say. Ask open questions to give direction.

3. Think about your communication from an assertiveness perspective.

We know that once emotions take charge, an individual may just be reacting rather than thinking rationally and we need a way to diffuse this.

One option is to use assertiveness techniques to draw attention to the behaviour and how it makes you feel.

For example, you might say: “I can see that this has affected you greatly.

When you raise your voice I do find it hard to think and perhaps we can agree to discuss this rationally?” or perhaps, “We need to find a way of resolving this, how about we think about it and come back together this afternoon to run through the issues together?”

4. Show understanding and empathy.

Acknowledge the emotion and issue. Perhaps you might say: “I can see this is very important to you, let’s try and find a solution.” The collaborative use of “let’s” seeks to try and encourage a joint approach to resolution.

Understand the perspective of the person who confronts you. Think about why they might be reacting to the situation so negatively.

There might be a range of reasons from simple disagreement, to issues of status, surprise or reaction to change.

Different people react differently to change. Understanding the driver behind the response will help give insights into resolving it.

5. See if you can find a “win-win” response.

Something that works for both sides.

Dealing with confrontation at work is often challenging but a strategic and thoughtful approach can be a great place to start.

Alison Miles-Jenkins is the founder of Leading Light Learning, and author of New Manager Secrets. To engage with us on workplace culture and how to deal with confrontation, e-mail us at For more Try This articles, click here.

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