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Campus to Career Blog Series: Understanding Conflict Resolution in the Workforce

Wherever two or more humans gather, you can be assured that eventually, no matter how well they get along, there is going to be a conflict. Whether it’s best friends or spouses, at family gatherings or sporting events, and yes, even in the workplace, learning to communicate and resolve conflicts is key to a happier, more productive life. As the tech-sector grows and companies evolve and rely more on Agile, in-house collaboration, conflict resolution is a skill set that will help recent graduates quickly acclimate to the workforce.

Is the Conflict Personal or Professional?

“One of the comments that employers often make is that those new to the workforce sometimes have a hard time effectively resolving conflict because they cannot separate whether the issue is personal or professional,” stated Robin Diana, Training Specialist, Talent Management, LED FastStart.

“When a co-worker says, ‘Take a look at this code, I think it could be better,’ that is not a personal attack,” said Ceceille Palmer Malcolm, Scrum Master, DXC, New Orleans. “In the spirit of collaboration, you need to ask for input on how to improve the code, or welcome input from someone else whose idea may be better.” Palmer Malcolm also reinforced that the tech field is also filled with a diverse workforce often from multiple countries, most of whom have different cultures and customs. “Such a widely divergent group means that misunderstandings are inevitable. Having an open mind and being willing to understand other people’s perspectives will go a long way in building a successful career.”

Conflict Resolution is a Key Skill Set

As you continue on your career track, Peter Pappas, Human Resources Business Partner at DXC, New Orleans says that dealing with disagreements is a major skill set for project managers. “As a leader, you have to understand conflict resolution and be able to manage differences that may arise when distinct personalities come together. The sooner you learn this the better if you want to advance in your career.”

All of the professionals in this blog agreed that It takes an emotionally mature person to experience a conflict, understand that most of the time it is not personal and then move on to a resolution. They advise to take a calm look at the factors—pause, listen to the other person and always remain respectful. Reflect on the problem and devise a way to resolve it in a civil manner and move on. Trying to push or escalate the issue will not help, nor will playing the blame game. A good rule of thumb is to consider that you’ve got 24 hours and then you have to let it go. Sometimes in the workplace, you ultimately have to agree to disagree. Having compassion, giving someone grace when they do something wrong, communicating in a courteous tone—all of these practices can go a long way in diffusing conflict during disagreements.

Understanding Personalities

One of the important aspects of actually mitigating conflict before it begins comes with recognizing a teammate’s personality to understand how to best collaborate with them, especially if you are in a leadership position. “One person may be more introspective and needs some time to digest information,” explained Pappas. “When you roll out the data, they will most likely take some time to give you a thoughtful response. With a visual person, you can’t just walk up and dump verbal information on them, you need to illustrate it on paper or a white board. Those that tend to be extroverts may be able to process info quickly and immediately have thoughts, questions and resolutions, but then you have to give them something to do while everyone else is digesting.”

So, when in college, take part in as many classes as you can, both inside the tech curriculum as well as those outside, where working in teams is part of the course. In addition, volunteering for clubs, organizations and events where collaboration is a necessity can help you sharpen your teamwork and conflict resolution talents that will ultimately provide a good foundation of business skills you can use in your career.

This blog is part of our continued “Campus to Career Blog Series.” Read the earlier posts and learn how to combine the proficiencies you mastered in college with the essential business skills needed to navigate the workplace and so you can learn how to land a high-quality tech job and advance quickly.

And after graduation, don’t forget to use Louisiana Job Connection to find your new career!