Why you shouldn’t hide from the heat: how to be cool when handling conflict

The might look like a Daniel Boone hat, but in fact, it’s the back-end of our hefty (and adorable) kitty, Dodger, who has decided that the heat has gotten the best of him. This obviously isn’t the best option for dealing with his situation; he can’t even fit in the area that he hopes can provide him some relief. Before you move forward to get out of whatever heat you face, think through your plan and you’ll have a better chance of getting what you need.

So much of the country has been experiencing record heat. Not just for a day or two, but for extended periods. It can wear on you if you aren’t used to it. I grew up in Virginia but after years of milder summers here in New Hampshire, these 90+ degrees days can be stifling. We’ve been taxing the use of our little air-conditioning unit to try to at least keep the house temperatures tolerable. It has worked for now, but that window unit wasn’t built for the size of the house or the amount of time we’ve been using it.

Whether the heat of the outside temperature, or the heat caused by friction in your workplace, we all have our limits of what we can endure. You need to manage your stress and be mindful of the stress levels of others, which may be different from your own. 

When you find yourself in a heated situation, resist the temptation to let your frustration and elevated blood pressure consume you. Out of sheer anger, you might find yourself spewing words that will harm the situation more than it will help it. Whether spoken directly or sent off in a hostile email, beware of the power of your words; you should keep the bigger picture in mind rather than simply easing the immediate aggravation you feel.

Instead of reacting hastily, create a plan to help you and others work through the situation. Likewise, if employees you manage are involved in an ongoing disagreement, you need to step in and facilitate it.

While some people are comfortable addressing someone they are at odds with, another common (and unproductive) reaction to dealing with conflict is to ignore it. Don’t be lulled by the silence of an unresolved issue. People shut down but not off. They still have feelings, they still have frustrations, even if they decide not to voice them. Their absence of complaints could be a signal that it feels easier or safer to be quiet, even though they haven’t found a solution at all. As a manager, it’s your job to remove roadblocks to accomplish work. Unresolved conflict is a huge obstacle!

Don’t fall trap to the idea that ignoring a problem will eliminate it. It won’t.

Here are some ideas for how you can manage your stress with a productive outcome.

  • Think clearly, in the most basic terms, how you see the issue. What is really going that is making you, or someone else, crazy? It may help to write it down. Before you can adequately deal with the situation, you need to understand it fully.
  • Next, think through the viewpoint that another person might hold on the same issue. What other angles can you think of? What are possible scenarios that could exist? Once you take the time to view it from another vantage point, you might see things differently from your own angle.
  • Take action. It doesn’t have to be immediate, nor bold. Simple steps, like initiating a calm conversation can go a long way to making progress. Take an hour or a day, maybe even a week, to thoroughly get a handle on the situation. But you must take some action within a reasonable timeframe so that the facts and events of the problem are fresh enough to deal with, not a faint memory by the other person who may have long since moved on from it.
  • When you do move forward, be kind. Once you’ve backed the other person in the corner or made him angry from your comments, you’ll make it nearly impossible for him to want to work with you to solve the problem. As one of my most talented mentors once told me, “There are two sides to every story, and some truth to both sides.”

I don’t know many people who enjoy conflict. But you shouldn’t avoid it and you can treat it gently and still see positive results.

If you start with some compassion and patience as the foundation for your plan, you will have a far greater chance of cooling the situation down for long haul. Don’t leave yourself exposed like Dodger did.

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  1. Judy Ringer on July 23, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Thanks for another great article, Robin. Conflict is too easily ignored in the workplace. Compassion and patience, as you say, are huge – for yourself and the other person. And respect – one of the first things to go when we’re upset, but something that keeps the conversation safe when we remember to employ it.

  2. Robin Eichert on July 23, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Judy, I always love your perspective! I had in mind compassion and patience for the other person, but of course, you are right. It’s so important to keep a healthy dose of those things for ourselves, too! We have to start from within, don’t we? Thanks so much for being here.

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