How recent grads should deal with conflict at work

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The average person spends 20-35% of their life at work and the people who surround you at work, particularly your manager or managers, can strongly colour how you feel about this huge chunk of your everyday life.

Interpersonal discord can dilute the quality of your work life, distract you from primary objectives, and hinder your development within an organization. Remember: keeping the lines of communication open is often the best way to strive for change no matter where you work.

Lyndsey Jones, the university programs co-ordinator for GE Canada, says, “It’s important to view workplace relationships as an on-going development, so rather than just giving up on the relationship at the first sign of trouble. Work through it to find a resolution.”

It’s important to take responsibility for your relationship with your manager and peers. Even if they behave inappropriately, it’s never productive to respond unprofessionally – as satisfying as it might feel in the short run.

Debora Filippi, who works in film post-production, says she experienced a situation in which changes made by a manager were not communicated to all parties involved. She says she resolved this by increasing information sharing to ensure everyone was on the same page.

Is there a difference between a larger corporation and a small, privately owned company?

Dara Del’re, a former regional analyst says, “At a larger corporation, you can talk to HR or request a transfer. At a smaller organization, that really isn’t an option.”

But Jones says in spite of the possible lack of resources available to associates at smaller organizations, the principles should remain the same.

What is the most frequent mistake most recent graduates make in dealing with clashes at the workplace?

“Taking the conflicts personally,” Jones says. “Just because your manager doesn’t agree with your opinion on something, doesn’t mean he or she thinks you’re a bad employee.”

Imagine yourself face to face with a prospective employer, months or even years from the time of conflict. What would you like to say you did in an interpersonal dispute with your supervisor or peer?

If you took the first step toward reconciliation, it only looks better on you and might even help you advance your career by giving you a reputation for conflict resolution rather than conflict initiation.

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About the author

Mira Saraf studied psychology and English at McGill University. When she graduated, she wanted to pursue journalism but somehow ended up working in Montreal's garment industry. From there, she moved to New York to attend FIT. She worked there for a year before moving back to Toronto to work for Winners. Two and a half years in she took over a year off to pursue writing education and a career in freelance writing. She has since returned to the industry and now works for Loblaw/Joe Fresh. She continues to write on a part time basis.