3 Productive (Not Unprofessional) Ways to Argue at Work

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Ivy Exec51
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April 23, 2024 at 5:30PM UTC
Corporate leaders have a responsibility to continually evaluate the organization’s purpose and identify opportunities to gain a competitive advantage. If a business is standing still, it’s inevitable competitors will evolve and take their place in the market. 
However, when making high-level decisions, there can be tension and conflict between colleagues. Often people with strong personalities have different viewpoints and refuse to concede ground. 
It’s important not to confuse stubbornness with strength, as this could negatively affect your reputation within the business. By utilizing conflict resolution and reconciliation strategies, you can display flexibility to colleagues while still gaining support for your agenda.

Identify potential conflicts early

Before diffusing a challenging situation, you need to identify potential issues early and reduce the risk of escalation. When you are putting your suggestions to colleagues, look out for the following signs:
  • A colleague shaking their head, rolling their eyes, or exhaling dramatically to indicate exasperation, is displaying expressions that they don’t share your vision.
  • Co-workers who are passing notes or exchanging text messages while you are speaking may be checking they are not alone in thinking your suggestions are unreasonable.
  • Aggressive body language such as standing too close to you when you’re speaking or scowling during your presentation can be concerning warning signs.

How to resolve conflict

When you identify a potentially tricky situation, you can move to the next stage of conflict resolution and reconciliation. There are several excellent techniques for changing the current atmosphere and giving colleagues the chance to support your agenda without losing face.

1. Depersonalize the disagreement.

Emotions can run high when leaders encounter resistance while they are trying to push the company forwards. In this scenario, arguments can become personal, and colleagues lose sight of the bigger picture. It’s important to remember the disagreement isn’t about you, even if a co-worker is making unnecessary personal comments in the heat of the moment.
When associates calm down after the discussion is over, they’ll realize they handled the situation poorly. If you have been composed throughout and kept your comments focused on the situation, rather than making it personal, you can gain considerable respect from your colleagues
The best way to distance emotions from a debate is to always focus on the disagreement topic. If you begin to direct your attention towards the co-worker making the opposing point, the conflict can quickly become personal.

2. Keep an open mind.

It’s unhelpful to keep a staunch unchangeable opinion, and this could indicate to co-workers that you are inflexible. When you disagree with another corporate leader, ask questions about their ideas. Rather than trying to push your agenda through despite their objections, you can provide more information that may not have been clear in your original presentation. 
By providing both parties with as much information as possible, you open the door to combining the best parts of both viewpoints. A collaboration could turn out to be the most effective solution for the company. Keeping an open mind means co-workers are more likely to see you as someone who considers all options for the good of the business.

3. Plan ahead.

You can resolve many leadership conflicts by planning for them in advance. A CMO is likely to advocate investing in a marketing strategy that has a high upfront cost because they believe it can produce an excellent ROI. However, this strategy might draw resistance from the CFO, who may be trying to protect the quarterly budget and views the marketing plan as a risk.
Often you can foresee such problems arising and have a solution for when it occurs. If you are the CMO, perhaps you can prepare a report to show the CFO how similar marketing strategies have provided positive financial yields in the past year. If you are the CFO, you could produce data to show the money for a marketing strategy will be available in the next quarter.
By identifying factors that other corporate leaders could find threatening to their department, you can work towards finding a resolution that is acceptable to all parties. 

Don’t fear conflict

One of the misunderstandings about corporate conflict resolution is that you should try to avoid disagreements in the first place. However, this leads to colleagues being afraid to express potentially useful views and produces a lack of diverse opinions.
It’s essential to be confident when communicating your proposals, but in a way that encourages debate and collaboration with co-workers. When you are willing to enter into dialogue with colleagues who hold opposing views, you can learn about different standpoints which can benefit you in the future. 
You also display a willingness to interact with others who may not be as accommodating as you. This is a progressive trait that presents you in a positive light to colleagues and superiors.

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