Conflict is an undeniable part of everyday life. The workplace is no exception. Conflict a necessary part of life as it catalyses change. The pitfall however is when conflict is handled erroneously and leaves a lot of hurt feelings in its wake. Many people of are of the opinion that ‘feelings’ don’t really have a central place in the workplace. This is until they get their feelings hurt and end up in a spiralling disagreement that ends up in a resignation or being fired. As we have seen in the previous, people are different and also deal with conflict differently. Taking this into account, it is only fair to say that we are human with human emotions who appreciate kindness.

That said, we need some tools to handle conflict in the workplace effectively. In the next few instalments we will be looking at some different elements of conflict resolution.


“Oh, I am sorry! I was just assuming…” How often have you heard this or said something close to this? The truth is that assumption is part of our every day lives. We assume that the doctor treating us has the necessary credentials or that a classroom is booked as class is scheduled. We don’t even give these assumptions a second thought, it has become second nature. We assume some things as truth.

Now, take that natural inclination for assumptions and add some human intention to it. This usually results the opening question. Our ability to assume things about other people might often lead to misunderstandings and laying a blemished foundation for a relationship.

We can avoid this by identifying our assumptions and giving others an opportunity to do the same. The aim is to develop a common understanding of a problem and giving ample time for all to check out their assumptions. Sounds easy but how do we ‘check out’ our assumptions?

We ask direct questions. So simple, yet we fail to do this on a daily basis. It might be because we assume that the other party will take offense to such a direct question. The truth is, tone can make a world of difference. If being more direct is new to you, try and practise out loud taking tone into consideration.

Here are some examples from the workplace,

  • What did you want to achieve when you did that?
  • What information were you given about what my role would be?
  • What is your understanding of our task?

Try answering this questionnaire with someone and get a little more insight into how you deal with assumptions.

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