Managing conflicts – it just sounds simple

“It will be difficult for two people who think differently to agree.

Two people who think will easily agree.”

Meša Selimović

How people perceive the world, filter information, process it, and derive meaning from it – they differ from each other. Your map of the mind and mine can vary drastically due to different backgrounds, upbringing, experiences, culture, communication, values, beliefs, etc. We are all different. And that’s okay. Conflict, as a result of differences among people, is a completely natural and expected thing, to which we don’t necessarily have to attach a negative connotation. Whether conflicts will have constructive or destructive consequences depends primarily on those who manage them. First of all, we need to get used to them because they are always present, everywhere. We don’t have to be experts in social psychology to recognize them in everyday life: in the family, with friends, or random passers-by, on the street, at work, in the supermarket, with ourselves… Life itself is woven with countless conflicts. Some we successfully resolve and overcome, while with some, we continue to live. Precisely because we are all different from each other, contact with people often leads us directly into a state of stress because it requires attention, reaction, and adaptation, and the latter is usually the most difficult. Experiencing stress during communication is not characteristic only for the segment of life-related to work and career; on a personal level, we communicate with members of the immediate family (which, in some cases, can be a double-digit number), with the large family we have inherited, but also with those we have chosen for ourselves: dear friends, lovers, etc. All of this is – life.

Why would we expect anything different at work? With a multitude of unknown people, whom we did not choose as collaborators, colleagues, or superiors, and all of them are, like us, a story of their own – you certainly won’t easily (or at all) achieve a harmonious relationship. Does such a thing even exist in a business context? The truth is that the corporate world, in itself, implies conflicts. They are an integral part of every business environment, even the small, local ones. Any form of disagreement at work becomes personal because – with their opinions on a certain topic, everyone is trying to achieve or prove something, to achieve a goal; if you don’t agree with them, you are trying to take away/prevent what they want (at least that’s what they think). But – what then when a conflict arises because someone violates ethical, legal rules? If someone’s ambitions are such and so great that they don’t hesitate to be immoral for success? What if their actions endanger someone or something? If they are so ambitious that, to achieve what they need, they try to appropriate what does not belong to them, lie, deceive, and so on? That is already a conflict that rarely can be constructive because excessive ambitions, in themselves, become destructive.

Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with ambition, quite the contrary. It is positive and valuable as long as it moves us and encourages us to be productive, and successful, to stand out and achieve goals. Today, ambition is highly valued and represents a big plus in any professional selection. It is your right to want something and strive to get it. The only question is the way you choose to achieve the goal. For example, everyone works to earn money; material satisfaction is the basic (but not the only) driving force in business unless you see that job just as a hobby. And everything is fine as long as there is a balance between what you provide and what you get. If you want something that doesn’t belong to you, that you haven’t deserved in any way, the mentioned balance ceases to exist, and you are on the path to committing a crime. Of course, wanting to appropriate something that is not yours does not imply that you will do it – most people do not dare to commit an offense or crime because it is immoral and punishable – the risk factor and the value of the ultimate gain are disproportionate.

For every form of contact and communication at work, there are legally prescribed regulations, and this imperfect world we live in would be much simpler and better if they were respected and consistently enforced. However, people are, above all, subjective beings, and when emotion prevails (whatever kind it may be), and this often happens very easily, double standards come into play, and the whole ideally imagined system falls apart, and no code of conduct will prevail over someone’s emotion. It turns out that there is a system in theory and a system in practice. And it is necessary to have a unified system that does not protect individuals and is equal to and for all.

Rules exist to be respected – this applies to every segment of life, and it is particularly applicable in the business world. However, many consciously bypass these rules, although they are well aware of them, forgetting that “the right path is the shortest path.”

Why do people choose shortcuts on the way to their goals? There are many reasons, and they all mostly boil down to the fact that they are lazy individuals, ignorant, or simply fraudsters, who believe in “the shorter, the closer.” The law makes us free, otherwise – we would live in lawlessness and anarchy. There have always been many professions whose goal is to resolve such conflicts: from security guards and guards to lawyers, judges, to police authorities. However, implementing the law equally for everyone, without exceptions, poses a real challenge, especially in today’s times. Practice shows that many powerful individuals, thanks to their position and influence, disregard legal norms. There is a well-known saying ” (Can not) kick against the pricks “. This tendency has been present throughout history, up to the most recent dates. When the individual’s arbitrariness prevails, then it becomes the law of force, which does not protect everyone, as it should be, but only the chosen ones – and endangers the others. So, it is no longer about the most innocuous disagreements in opinions, which can be resolved with a friendly coffee, but about a serious violation of someone’s rights for the sake of their success and gain.

The system won’t help you much in resolving conflicts – it’s all up to you. You can relent, or switch to the opposing side and make the conflict “no longer exist”; you can hand over the baton to someone else and go as far away from the source of conflict as possible because you don’t want to fight lost battles in advance; or you can firmly believe that no battle is lost until it is lost and do everything to win it.