Criticism, feedback culture and conflict behavior: 5 tips against strife in the workplace


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When two argue, someone is happy ... Rather not: Conflicts in the workplace are rarely productive and can also poison the working atmosphere for all those not involved. 2 X 5 tips on what to do about it. Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherGerman Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.

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Conflicts in time

The fact is: When a conflict is underway, it is time to counteract and resolve conflicts - whether you are involved yourself or others. Of course that does not mean sweeping conflicts under the carpet. But there are a few points that you can take to heart.

As studies show, quarrels and conflicts are among the biggest time killers in the job. So if you want to work more productively, it's a good idea to avoid conflicts or at least to solve them quickly.

Studies on conflicts in the job

A 2008 study by CPP of conflict in the workplace showed that American employees spend 2,8 hours a week dealing with conflict in the workplace. That costs them Company 359 billions of dollars paid working hours, assuming an average hourly pay of 17,96 US dollars. Expressed in hours, the 385 equals to millions of working days.

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In 2012, KPMG Germany demonstrated in its Conflict Cost Study II that cases of conflict in German companies cost between 60.000 and 3 million euros per year. So there are solid reasons to deal with the issue of dispute and conflict from the point of view of efficiency and productivity. How do you resolve conflicts or ensure that they do not arise in the first place?

The emotions are thwarting our calculations

The ideal case of a conflict would be if both sides talked about the problem purely objectively and could jointly look for a reasonable compromise. Unfortunately, reality often looks very different. Because there are emotions in the game - and the desire to win. And they usually complicate the conflict resolution quite a lot.

In detail, it looks like this: Not infrequently conflicts between colleagues smolder for a long time, it has dammed up and suddenly breaks free. Or you try to irritate and intimidate the other with small, nasty remarks. Both, however, only lead to the escalation of the conflict; the relationship between the two parties is disturbed by this lasting. A negotiation about a conflict solution and a reasonable compromise become more and more difficult.

Being right as a sense of achievement

To make matters worse, that both sides have my right to - and want to win. The management trainer Dr. Cornelia Topf seeks the reason for this in our brain. In a study by Yale University, subjects competed against a computer in the well-known puzzle game “scissors, stone, paper”. The test subjects could neither win prizes nor fear a penalty if they were defeated. Nevertheless, they were there with all their hearts and especially with their brains.

The study found that our brain has a reward center that releases dopamine in a happy event - and that's how we feel lucky. A win in a dispute we're getting right for is such a joyous event. Therefore, one should never underestimate the desire of the people involved in the conflict to win.

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5 Tips: Solve blockages through pertinent bargaining

But there are various factors that block conflict resolution. One has to become aware of these factors. The Harvard concept for factual negotiation, which was formulated in 1981 in the book “Getting to Yes” (Roger Fisher, William L. Ury), offers a practical approach to solving such blockages. The aim of this concept is to achieve the greatest possible mutual benefit - beyond all personal sensitivities. And this is how it works:

  1. Differences between the subject of negotiation on the one hand and the relationship between the negotiating partners on the other hand, in order not to cloud the matter by emotions.
  2. Do not focus on positions, but on the underlying interests. Often the positions are only means to an end. The interest that lies behind and should be achieved is often different.
  3. Insults, inappropriate remarks or lazy tricks in negotiations should be addressed directly to take the wind out of their sails.
  4. Develop as many options as possible, rate and decide later.
  5. Add generally accepted norms or principles as objective decision criteria.
  6. If the demands of the other side are difficult to accept, explain factually the unacceptable consequences.
  7. Decide for or against a bargain by comparing it with your best alternative.

5 tips against conflicts in the workplace

Of course, this concept is a bit theoretical. Anyone who wants to avoid conflicts in everyday life quite practically and concretely in individual cases should follow these tips much more:

  1. The right way to deal with praise and criticism. Because honestly meant recognition is one of the strongest links between people and creates sympathy. But let's face it: Many of us find it difficult to express honestly praised praise. It's not about singing praises of love always and everywhere. It helps if you only perceive the achievements of others a little more attentively and does not compare colleagues with each other.
  2. Conversely, a lot of things are wrong when it comes to criticizing: Especially in Germany, it is practically a good thing, so much is expected in the job, so it doesn't hurt to criticize a bit - some bosses think. Therefore criticism is heard far more often than praise. Conversely, many “criticism victims” quickly forget that it doesn't have to be bad to be criticized: feedback from colleagues and bosses shows you where there is room for improvement - provided you don't put your head in the sand. So see positive!
  3. The sound makes the music, especially when criticizing and dealing with each other. Generalizations are quickly at hand: the colleague is always so stupid, the boss is always in a bad mood, but I don't succeed at all ... It's just so much easier to simplify things in this way than to look at the world in a differentiated way - because that requires thinking. In fact, generalizations don't do you any favors: Because if you tell yourself that you can't get into your job, you will soon believe that too. A self-fulfilling prophecy, so to speak.
  4. One thing has always been clear to me: a healthy debate cleans the air. She builds up anger and lets everyone breathe freely. It's only a pity that most people prefer not to take it too seriously, and simply take their anger into themselves.
  5. It then comes quickly to the ugliest variant of conflicts in the workplace: bullying. Not so nice, because the conflict is rather subliminal and the affected person only slowly noticeable. Curiosities on the edge: Who is bullied, at least one advantage: He may pay less taxes. Namely, when he visits a self-help group due to the mobbing. The Finanzgericht Niedersachsen decided in June 2007 that the costs for these self-help groups, ie the travel costs and the membership fees themselves, are mainly professionally induced and therefore not subject to the withdrawal ban §12 EstG, since the private share of self-help behind the work-related part resign. However, psychological knowledge tailored to a conflict situation needs to be conveyed.

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