Handling Workplace Conflict

4 minutes

In every workplace, conflict will arise from time to time. This could be between colleagues, managers, or between an employee and his or her supervisor. As an international intern or trainee in the U.S., these conflicts could be intimidating and you may be unsure of how best to handle them. First, it is good to understand that issues in the workplace are normal. When you are spending hours everyday with the same people, it is likely that disputes will arise. In the office, personalities will clash, miscommunications will occur, and not everyone will see agree. However, it is important that you know how to handle these issues so as to maintain a healthy, productive workplace for yourself and your colleagues.

In order to better prepare you for managing tension at work, we have assembled some tips and guidelines you should follow.

  • Choose your battles: Working in close proximity with the same people everyday ensures that trivial disputes will arise.  You office is likely filled with all different types of people, each with differing opinions and ideas. It is important to respect these individuals, even when you may disagree. In these cases, you need to be able to determine what is a valid concern and what will go away on its own.  Think carefully about if this conflict is truly affecting your work environment, or was it a mild disagreement that will be forgotten tomorrow? If there is a mild disagreement, just be patient and give it time to be forgotten.  If the same disagreements keep happening, though, and start to affect your work or happiness, don't ignore the issue.
  • Don't ignore the issue: If there is a conflict that is affecting your work environment, then you should deal with it as soon as possible. Letting tension build will only make things worse. The sooner you confront a conflict, particularly the individuals involved in the conflict, the less time it has to escalate into a larger problem.
  • Talk to the other person: If you are having problems with another member of your team, then you should talk to them about this issue. Be careful not to be accusatory or antagonistic, but instead ask them to discuss whatever is bothering you. In this conversation, it is important not to place blame on any individual and to use neutral language. Explain how you are feeling, and then listen to the other person's opinion. Then, you can brainstorm how you both can work to resolve the conflict.
  • Talk to a supervisor: If you are uncomfortable confronting the person with whom you are in conflict, then you should talk to your supervisor. Your manager will be able to provide insight and advice about how best to handle these issues. They can also serve as a mediator between you and the person with whom you are conflicting. It is also important for your supervisor to know when there are problems in the workplace, as it is their job to oversee the team as a whole and make sure everyone is comfortable.
  • Talk to a Human Resources professional: If you are working in a larger company, it is likely that you have a Human Resources Department or Human Resources manager in the office. Human Resources managers are trained to deal with conflict in the workplace, and it is their job to see that everyone is reaching their full potential at work. They may have a conflict resolution plan already in place for your company, and they will be able to mediate a conflict as an outside observer., Talking to your Human Resources professional will be very helpful, especially if your concerns are with a supervisor.
  • Contact InterExchange: As J-1 Interns and Trainees, you have another resource available--InterExchange! As your J-1 Visa sponsor, we serve as an advocate for you in the workplace. If you have any concerns or are encountering conflict at work, you should reach out to us. We can help you brainstorm how best to handle this situation, and we can act as mediators between you and your colleagues. If you are ever experiencing any issues with your program, please do not hesitate to contact InterExchange at training@interexchange.org.

The above guidelines should help you to manage and diffuse smaller disagreements and conflicts at work.  However, if you find yourself experiencing more serious workplace concerns such as discrimination or sexual harassment, it is important to speak to a supervisor or HR representative immediately. You should also inform InterExchange if you encounter any type of harassment or discrimination. We can serve as an ally for you in these situations.

InterExchange Career Training USA is a top J-1 Visa sponsor for university students and young professionals who have already secured internships or training programs with companies in the U.S. If you still need to find an internship or training program in the U.S., check out our resources and start the J-1 Visa sponsorship process early.

Ani Kington Ani Kington

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.

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