By Hanan Ezzat
“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.” ― George Bernard Shaw
Indeed George Bernard Shaw was a wise man. We all know and realise that some conflict at work is healthy and sometimes inevitable. It’s part of the fabric of the workplace. Sometimes it’s due to office politics or bad management on the side of your boss, or sometimes a pure conflict around a work issue. If it is a professional conflict there will be ways to resolve it or work around it. But it’s when it becomes ‘personal’, that is when you want to consider your options carefully . When it becomes malicious, toxic, more about you than about the work. That is when you should never wrestle with pigs. You may think that’s running away or copping out but that maybe the only and wisest option you have sometimes.
So how do you deal with a conflict and how do you take the decision to wrestle or not with the pigs? here are a few tips:
#1. Don’t take it too personal
The first step is to try to separate yourself mentally from the conflict and those involved. Taking care of yourself during the stressful time of a conflict is key. Conflict inflicts a lot of negativity on you and causes stress which can really pull you down, don’t allow that.
#2. Get it off your chest
Don’t bottle up how you’re feeling. Confide in people you trust, preferably those who are not with you at work. It’s okay to vent but take care who you share your feelings and emotions with.
#3. Don’t get pulled into a rant
Others around you may want you to rant, they may encourage you to do so. Be aware of that and don’t fuel office gossip around the conflict, that usually worsens the situation and does not help it.
#4. Don’t become obsessed with the conflict
You may not even realize this but when we are caught up in a conflict we tend to think about it a great deal sometimes every waking moment as well as at night. That is quite dangerous and will impact on your emotional well-being as well as your health. Try getting your mind off the conflict with other things, go and watch a movie with a friend, read a new book, go for a walk. Do something you enjoy and let your mind wander to other things.
#5. Be open to advice from those you trust
Others can provide you with advice to help you tackle the conflict. Sometimes people not closely involved give you a new viewpoint or angle for the situation. Seek advice and listen to it.
#6. Pick your battles
Going back to wrestling with the pigs, not every conflict calls for a confrontation or trying to tackle it head on. When you separate yourself from it you can sit down and think if it is really worth tackling or not.
#7. Be specific
Weigh your options for confronting the person(s). Make sure you are prepared and that you are specific, the more specific you are the more difficult it is to turn the conflict into something personal. If you decide to meet with those involved in the conflict or are asked to, make sure you are prepared for the meeting. A note of warning though is that if you decide to get into a confrontation you are bound to be impacted by the confrontation, remember “You both get dirty and the pig likes it”.
#8. Know the HR policies and channels at your company
It’s always useful to keep abreast of HR policies and rules that exist especially in times of conflict. However, don’t assume that HR staff will necessarily support you or see the situation through your eyes. Contrary to the belief, a lot of times HR staff align themselves with the party that has the power so keep that in mind.
#9. Never resort to e-mail
Sometimes it’s easy to hide behind email and deal with the conflict in writing. I would strongly advise against that because when you are emotionally overloaded you may write something that you regret later. You will never know where your e-mail will land and how it will be used. Email communication can easily be misunderstood so don’t resort to it.
#10. This too shall pass
If you think back at any conflict you were part of you will realise that it passes. Your role may change or your level may change within the company and those who were part of the conflict may become part of your team or you of theirs. Always deal with respect, this is a reflection of who you are and do to others as you would have them do to you.
Biography: Hanan Ezzat
Hanan is an experienced consultant with professional experience of over 20 years. Her portfolio covers several local and international organizations including an Egyptian mega Science City project, a leading British educational non-profit organization, a market leader company in edible oils and a high profile Egyptian government agency. Out of the twenty two years, six years were on the Middle East and North Africa level, covering 17 countries.
She has helped a number of organizations move forward on the diversity front. Working with the EU on the EUROMED Programme “Role of Women in Economic Life”, she improved the focus on gender equality across eight EUROMED countries.
Her region-wide work on the British Council “Women at Work” project, helped link women in professions where they are under-represented in the Middle East with their counterparts in the UK. Also within the British Council Hanan led on the rollout of the Equal Opportunities and Diversity (EO&D) strategy for Near East and North Africa. She developed a campaign titled „Don‟t Discriminate‟ – introducing diversity into the workplace. She created long term cultural change and encouraged colleagues to embrace EO&D principles. This campaign was considered best practice globally.
Hanan has long standing experience on the corporate side. Her last post was Director of Communications at Zewail City of Science and Technology. Prior to which she was MENA Regional Director for Marketing and Communications at the British Council.
Her key areas of expertise include: consulting, working strategically, coaching, and project and change management. Over the years, she has coached individuals and teams. Hanan holds a Masters Degree in Mass Communication coupled with a number of British qualifications in marketing, communications and digital media management, in addition to Corporate Diversity Management training. Hanan has been a speaker on numerous occasions; the latest was at the London FCO Cyberspace Conference where she spoke about internet freedom.
Hanan lives in Heliopolis with her family. In her spare time she enjoys blogging, and reading.