Combating Conflict: 5 Questions for Better Self-Awareness

Aug 15, 2018 | Communication

No workplace is complete without conflict. Even the closest of colleagues and co-workers will occasionally disagree over the division of labor, the proper setting on the office thermostat, and whose turn it is to make the afternoon coffee run.

But sometimes, conflict moves beyond the mundane and can start to seem malicious. An office neighbor consistently uses their speakerphone for conference calls instead of closing the door or reserving a conference room. Someone leaves a container of tuna salad in the communal fridge for two weeks. The guy from accounting has an annoying habit of clipping his fingernails at his desk on his lunch break. All of these things can have you silently seething.

You cannot control other people. You may be able to have a conversation with them about their behavior, but ultimately, it’s their decision whether they want or need to change. And since all you can control is yourself, it may be time to take a long, hard look at your own self-awareness in the workplace.

What Have You Done to Resolve the Conflict?

It can be difficult to initiate a crucial conversation. Our tendency is to avoid conflict, not initiate it. But when another’s actions affect your day-to-day duties (and sometimes, your sanity), it’s important to attempt to resolve the issue peacefully.

Try to see things from your colleague’s point of view. Do they understand how their actions are affecting you? Have you brought it up to them in the past? Are you doing something that may be inadvertently contributing to or even fueling the situation?

Fuming under your breath about how inconsiderate someone is doesn’t solve anything – you need to take action and attempt to resolve the conflict. A simple conversation may be all it takes to keep the peace.

Have You Taken Personality Types into Account?

Sometimes, we work great with one person and clash with another. Chances are the clash has nothing to do with them as an individual – it’s more likely that your personality types don’t mesh well.

Making an effort to understand the personality types of the others in your office can have tremendous career benefits. Instead of having a knee-jerk reaction to a situation, take a step back and think, “Ok, this behavior seems insane to me, but maybe it’s just their communication or work style differs from mine.”

Don’t forget to take stock of your own personality type as well. There are a lot of excellent personality assessment tools you can use to learn a lot about your preferences and tendencies.

Can You Keep an Open Mind?

Not everyone functions the way you do – and that doesn’t mean they’re inherently wrong. The office neighbor who blares music or amplifies conference calls might have a hearing problem; the colleague who hasn’t removed the tuna salad from the fridge might have forgotten it’s there; the guy from accounting may have issues with social skills.

The fact is, you don’t know everyone’s story, and they don’t know yours. It’s possible that you do something that drives them just as crazy as they’re driving you.

Are You Open to Taking an Honest Look at Yourself?

In our own stories, we’re always the hero or the heroine. But other people may not cast us in the same light.

Take an honest look at your actions each day. Try to get a glimpse of yourself through your colleagues’ eyes. Are you taking long lunch breaks while everyone else is working on a group project? Wearing too much perfume? Flying off the handle at the slightest provocation?

If you’re unsure, try asking a trusted friend or family member. Solicit their feedback on your personality traits and habits. One of the biggest keys to being more self-aware is the ability to use constructive criticism to improve yourself!

What Can You Change?

No matter how hard you try, you can’t change other people. Instead, you may need to change yourself. Self-awareness is all about being open to improving yourself – not forcing others to improve themselves for your benefit.

Identify the key areas where you could make positive changes and then create a plan to implement them. Making an effort to improve doesn’t only benefit those we support; it benefits us, as well! While your colleagues may still get under your skin from time to time, you can go forward knowing that you, at least, are putting every effort into being the best assistant you can be!

This article first appeared in Executive Support Magazine, a global training publication and must read for any administrative professional. You can get a 30% discount when you subscribe through us. Visit the website at to find out more. Or to get your 30% discount, email and tell them we sent you.

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