How to Recognize the Warning Signs of a Serious Workplace Conflict

Businesswoman having discussion with male coworker

By Indigo Triplett

One of the most difficult matters for people to deal with is managing conflict both personally and professionally. Unfortunately, when owning and operating a business, conflict is par for the course. You will find yourself having to deal with contracts that have derailed, employees who have gone off the reservation, and vendors that may take advantage of you if you aren't paying attention.

This all will certainly cause your blood pressure to rise, but for someone with a mental health challenge the impact seems even direr. What is interesting about owners who have a mental health challenge is that they often find their lane and excel by doing what they are talented in. This often doesn't mean battling or dealing with conflict unless they are an attorney or someone whose job it is to fight. But by and large a typical entrepreneur who has a mental health challenge is more concerned about the work at hand versus dealing with issues.

However, not dealing with conflict is not an option as a business owner. I have seen people simply not respond to emails, letters or people in hopes that things will eventually work out, but no response is, in fact, a response when managing conflict. Often, professionals with a mental health challenge will opt to ignore problems not as a way of being difficult but in an attempt to manage their own behaviors and reactions to conflict. If someone knows that he can become agitated by conflict which will cause him to say or do things that will create more problems, then avoiding the problem seems to be an option. Another situation may be that engaging in conflict could trigger anxiety or depression, so a professional with a mental health challenge will attempt to avoid dealing with a problem.

There are five general ways professionals deal with conflict which may or may not work in their best interest. Professionals will compete, collaborate, compromise, avoid or accommodate in a conflict situation. I find that more often than not, professionals will avoid situations that make them uncomfortable. But what is most unfortunate is that some people are not even aware that they are encountering conflict, which makes it difficult to deal with it effectively. What could be easily resolved escalates when a professional with a mental health challenge is unaware that he is heading towards conflict. Here are six indicators to recognize when conflict is brewing:

  • You cannot agree on a particular issue or matter on which to take action. When this happens you really have to understand and recognize what is the actual issue. This requires asking questions even if it may appear that you are not clear or informed. Taking this step will move you closer to a resolution, if you are able to address what is really the issue.

  • You have reservations on an issue or action to be taken. Certain mental health challenges actually carry with them a high degree of insight. Learn to listen to your gut feelings when you have concerns. What often makes an entrepreneur a success is her ability to follow her hunches and gut instincts. If you have reservations, stop and explore what you think is going on and then address it.

  • You resent the current practice or decision, or actions to be taken. When you experience resentment and do nothing about it, that then festers and becomes something more than you intended it to be. This is where you can see behaviors manifesting out of feeling resentment. It's important that you address what you are feeling to address the conflict.

  • People see their needs as being threatened. When someone feels that they have to give up something of value to them there is conflict. It is in your best interest to deal with that issue before whatever you deem as valuable is taken away and then you have to fight to regain it. Being proactive will be more advantageous and less time consuming in dealing with conflict.

  • There is confusion. When there is confusion this is simple to resolve. It simply means that there needs to be more dialogue so that everyone understands what is the situation or matter at hand. Because most people don't like conflict, they will put their heads in the sand to avoid it. But, this is the easiest way to resolve possible conflict: just clarify what is going on.

  • You have physical symptoms. It is important to understand that if you have headaches, neck or back pains, sweating, a twitch or other symptoms when you think about a situation or engage a person whom you believe you may have conflict with that may be indicating stress and the need to resolve that conflict. People will take a pain reliever, but what really needs to happen is a step towards resolving the conflict through dialogue or action.