Interpersonal conflict – The Citizen

By Azim Jamal

Conflict situations in the workplace can be caused by a number of reasons, ranging from personality differences to damaging beliefs and opinions.

If viewed constructively, they can offer great opportunities for learning and self-assessment. However, if there is a defined and consistent pattern of negative interaction with someone, more stringent measures are needed.

A manipulator is usually invested in achieving their own goals by controlling and influencing others, often to the detriment of the latter’s sense of freedom or personal well-being. Their behaviors range from gossip or bad talk to emotional blackmail, discrediting others, distorting facts, lying or insincerity, deflecting the issue when faced or even using veiled threats. . This behavior is often derived from the manipulator’s own insecurities, his erroneous view of the world, and his consequent attempt at self-validation.

However, there are ways to stop such behavior.

1. Be aware of your rights and set limits – Everyone has fundamental rights in the workplace, including the right to be respected, the right to be able to express their needs and opinions, the freedom to set their priorities as well as to protect oneself from emotions, mental and physical injuries. It is therefore important to set and specify limits, if others do not respect this right.

2. Question the behavior – Ask probing questions to get the manipulator to question their own intention behind their request. Often, this measure alone will shatter their unfair expectations and force them to back down. For example, you can ask questions such as:


• Are you asking me or are you telling me?

• Is what you are asking fair?

• Would you like to know my opinion?

• Does this seem reasonable to you?

• Do you really expect me to do this?

3. Deliberate and Respond – Don’t give in to the pressure to respond to their request right away. Tell them, you need some time to think about it. Then walk away from that person, calmly assess the request, and calibrate your response accordingly.

4. Be Clear In Your Communication – Don’t expect them to understand. Tell them exactly what you want and make sure your tone and body language supports your speech.

5. Assert yourself – Don’t back down from drama or threats. Don’t let any issues linger by being vague or hesitant to do what you think is right. Suppressing any problem only makes it stronger, often leading to an emotional outburst later which shows you in a bad light. Say no if you have to. If expressed, politely and firmly, it can help you position yourself strongly, while still maintaining a viable relationship.

6. Attack the behavior, not the person – A person is more than the sum of their behavior. If you attack the person instead of their behavior, you kind of encourage them to perpetuate the behavior by associating it with their personality. Plus, focusing only on the behavior will help you dissociate yourself emotionally from the situation and respond objectively.

7. Document your work – If you are working with this person, it is best to document all communications and proof of work. This can be useful to present your case or to prevent the manipulator from discrediting your contribution.

8. Ask for help – If the person persists in their behavior or if the situation worsens, seek help from your boss or supervisor. Hold a one-on-one meeting and explain the situation. Stick to the facts and refrain from making judgments. Do not label the manipulator or display obvious sensitivity. Stay calm and objective!

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