Introverts can put down the axe to grind for conflict management

Image courtesy of bplanet /

Image courtesy of bplanet /

Learning to deal with conflict is a continuing process for me. In most situations I take on the conflict head on, instead of ignoring it. It may be because I am an introvert, Italian, a combination or just slow learning.

In all my years in sales and sales management, there was enough axe grinding among co-workers to kill a forest.

It turns out, several studies point to manager’s spending a good deal of time managing conflict. Like about 42% of their time.

Can you hear more trees falling?

There are many causes for workplace conflict occurring naturally from different department goals and job roles. When you mix in a person’s different needs, values and styles, is it any mystery why introverts and extroverts may have times they just cannot get along?

Not all conflict is worth confronting. Even though it’s not necessarily an easy decision to make, try a few questions if you are not certain about confronting or walking away. Here are just a couple when you have a conflict:

  • If you look back at a particular aggravating situation in a month, or a year, will it matter? If you can say it won’t matter, then expending the time and energy to resolve it may not be worth it.
  • Are there other people who might be hurt in some way if you don’t deal with the situation? If co-workers, family or friends are involved, then maybe you have to wave the introvert strengths into the situation and step up to handling things.

One common type of workplace conflict happens when people of different styles are tasked with completing a job – together.  As introverts if we are matched with an extrovert you might anticipate some issues like, we are usually most productive working in solitary. The extrovert might want to include even more people in the project.

Naturally, both people are going to have some emotions if there is conflict: they may feel stress, frustration, even resentment. This could mean, the best approach to most effective conflict resolution, is to balance our intellect with our emotional intelligence, often referred to as EQ.

Some statistics conclude that 85% of dismissals in the U.S. are from personality conflicts. Even if these are less than substantiated, what is substantiated is the amount of time we spend in the workplace dealing with conflict: 2 hour a week for employees and 42% of management time.

Recognizing both the intellectual and emotional side of the problem are key to successful resolution.

While there is no magic wand to dissolve the inevitable workplace conflict, with our introvert strengths of listening more, thinking things through, and talking after thinking, we can put away that axe to grind.

As you assess a particular situation, because as an introvert we cannot help but go into analyze mode, don’t get stuck in the muck. Decide if the return on your time and energy investment is worth it.

If you do move forward, have some options available like collaborating, accommodating, even ignoring, to choose when and how to confront the situation.

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  1. Jeannette Paladino

    Pat – there can be a downside to avoiding conflict. It’s inevitable that you will confront situations in the workplace where there is a clash of opinions or when someone is trying to take advantage of you. It’s a very competitive environment. You’ve got to evaluate when you’re going to engage in conflict because it’s necessary or when you should let it go. Personally, when I worked in companies I too often avoided conflict because I found it too stressful and uncomfortable. In retrospect that was a mistake and it put me at a disadvantage. I didn’t stand up for myself enough.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Inc. 500 Increase Use of Pinterest and Instagram to Tell StoriesMy Profile

  2. Find this fact really interesting, I quote you: “Some statistics conclude that 85% of dismissals in the U.S. are from personality conflicts.” If that’s correct it’s really lamentable. Professional people make sure they get along with their colleagues. They don’t have to like them or socialize with them, Just get along at work. In my opinion that applies to both introverts and extroverts.

    Sadly however, most human beings have a need to feel important and have power over others, which, needless to say, leads to conflict.
    Catarina recently posted…Will future leaders have to expand their thinking?My Profile

  3. Cheryl Therrien

    Work place conflict… I have face my share of it. For the most part I removed myself from those situations. Not everyone can do that as I did. That’s why we have people like you advising us. 🙂
    Cheryl Therrien recently posted…#Eyebright: Another ‘At Risk’ HerbMy Profile

  4. Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie)

    Boy howdy, can I relate to this post. Just not in the workplace, but in every day life! In work situations I think folks make a mistake if they don’t take into account the emotional side of any issue. While I think it’s a mistake to get emotional while dealing with conflict, I also think it’s important that one recognize that emotion often drives the conflict. I have found that if I can get down to that (mine or the other person’s) i can more quickly find a solution and move on.
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) recently posted…Communication…Where’s The Justice?My Profile

  5. Paul Graham

    Hi Patricia. For me a key to managing confrontation is to assess whether it is really about the matter at hand or whether there is a broader issue or some history at play. Once the root cause is clear and on the table it can be addressed productively and, though its a matter of personal preference, I like to do it quickly and directly.

  6. Indeed that is a part of the analysis Paul! Otherwise, we can go down an unnecessary rabbit trail. Thanks.
    Patricia Weber recently posted…Powerful Presentations by the Powerful IntrovertMy Profile

  7. Patricia, I think one of the best points you make is “If you look back at a particular aggravating situation in a month, or a year, will it matter? If you can say it won’t matter, then expending the time and energy to resolve it may not be worth it.” We have to learn to pick and choose our battles. And yes, while some things are truly annoying, if in the grand scheme of things they really are not going to matter in the long run, just learn to let them go. It goes a long way in getting along with your colleagues when you don’t make a big deal out of every little issue.

  8. This is interesting, because I hate conflict. I go out of my way to avoid it, even if it’s healthier to confront it. I’m trying to learn how to step up and deal with it better, and I think your questions to ask yourself will be helpful to me. Thanks for sharing!
    Meredith Wouters recently posted…The Button JarMy Profile

  9. Great topic. I agree with Jacqueline that often times conflicts come out of emotion. The emotions are running crazy and all of a sudden a person blurts something out from anger or frustration. I have had to grow alot in this area. I used to be the doormat girl or sweep everything under the rug. Now, I am trying to learn how to talk to people in a healthy way to solve issues. My friend says if you ever get into a heated arguement you can always pause and go to the bathroom. Call someone, pray, or take a minute to calm down. That has helped me. Thanks for the advice! =)

  10. I’d have to say that if I had one strong incentive for starting my own business, it would be a reduction in workplace conflict. No matter how amazing your colleagues, it’s really hard to avoid those things that cause conflict. Work is definitely a place where an ounce of restraint is worth a pound of agression.
    Debra Yearwood recently posted…Is Music Mind Food?My Profile

  11. Wow, I (like so many others) can relate to your thoughts on being an introvert in a workplace. So many times before, I hated group projects and I’m now in a place where that’s normally not happening. Conflict resolution was always hardest for me and I really could never master it. Having a quiet office is ideal for me but surely some people love the chaos and noise associated with some types of work.
    Carl recently posted…Trains Rule! No, Really!My Profile

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