Today we have another guest blog post from our partners at Credit Union Resources. Susan Looney, senior vice president of human resources, shares some tips on how to deal with conflict at your credit union.


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Why are people so afraid of conflict? Why are people afraid to communicate? Typically there are two responses to conflict: run away (avoidance) or ‘battle it out’.

Commonly, I receive calls from mangers or staff asking me how they should deal with an issue that they have with another staff member. The issues always range, but the solution is typically the same. Talk to the other staff member.

Conflict in the workplace is unavoidable. It will find you whether you look for it  or not. It is important to have the ability to recognize conflict, understand the nature of conflict, and to be able to resolve it quickly. 

Some of the reasons for conflict include:

      • Poor communication – Different communication styles can cause misunderstandings between people. Lack of communication drives the conflict underground.
      • Different interests – People have different goals and interests at work. When people have different priorities, this creates conflict.
      • Different personalities – Workplaces have people with many different personality styles. Unless people understand these differences, there will be conflict.
      • Different backgrounds – Workplaces are made up of people from different cultures with different values. These differences mean they see the world differently. Conflict occurs when people do not understand these differences.

There are a number of ways that people can handle workplace conflict:                

      • Avoid the conflict and hoping it goes away.
      • Work together to find a mutually beneficial solution. 
      • Surrender our own needs and wishes to please the other person.

It is generally believed that collaboration is the most productive way of addressing conflict. There is not a winner or loser, but rather a working together for the best possible solution.

This way to resolve conflict involves one important thing… communication. 

Conflict will not fix itself. We need to take the bull by the horns and communicate with those in which we have a conflict.

Some ways to insure your communication will help to resolve the conflict include:

      • Address the issue(s) face-to-face. Notes, email correspondence, and memos are not a productive way to resolve differences.
      • Stay calm and talk calm. Do not start the meeting in attack mode. If you attack, the other will get defensive and attack back. Choose your words carefully. 
      • Make a clear statement of why you want the conflict resolved.  
      • Watch your tone. The words you choose only say less than half the message. The other part of the message comes from your tone and body language. If your words say you are sincere, but your tone and body language does not, you will not achieve meaningful results.
      • Use the word “perceived”. While you may understand something to be true, that is what you perceive. It may not be understood to be true by everyone involved. Openly acknowledge there will be different perceptions of the problem(s).
      • Clearly articulate the causes of the conflict. Be specific and stick to the issues. It is important to address specific behaviors and situations if meaningful change is to take place. In trying to resolve conflict, it is tempting to resort to name calling or bring up issues from the past.

When you are having issues with another staff member, an employee, or your supervisor, make sure you communicate. Don’t complain to others that you have problems/conflicts with another person, if you have not tried communicating directly with them to fix it.


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