26 May

South Africa is a diverse country with many different cultures, religions, races and backgrounds which Archbishop Desmond Tutu has named “The Rainbow Nation”.

With such diversity, it is easy for conflict to erupt as a result of misunderstandings, even amongst those from the same cultural group e.g. a Zulu person born and bred in rural KwaZulu Natal might not agree with the way things are handled by a Zulu person from the township. 

The workplace is ultimately a melting pot of people and personalities forced together and disputes are inevitable. UASA has put together some tips and advice on how to handle conflict in the workplace. 

Confront conflict head-on

This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s one of the most crucial steps in resolving conflict. In any professional environment, because of the mixture of people, there are bound to be individual quirks, habits, or attitudes that are not conducive to the workplace.

Accept that at some point, you will anger or upset someone, or someone will upset you.

When conflict arises, ignoring it will either cause it to fester or create the impression that you don’t know anything is wrong. This will make you seem either callous or ignorant of other people’s feelings. 

Displaying emotional maturity and a willingness to address the issue will show that you are a proactive member of your workplace who wants to maintain a good relationship with your co-workers.

Discuss issues in person if possible.

It may be tempting to try to resolve the problem through an email, but there are differences between written and spoken language and so much is lost via a text through a computer screen. It’s too easy to misread the tone and intention of a message, further exacerbating the original conflict.

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