As a Matter of Conflict: Fight or Flight?



There has been a bad vibe going around in my workplace for some time now, and truth be told, I had wanted nothing to do with it. It was conflict. I wanted to sink in further down my chair, hide behind my laptop and pretend nothing happened. The thing is, the conflict revolved around me. I wasn’t the cause of it, but I could well be the result of it.

Working in a new environment with new faces and learning the ropes was difficult enough and I could do without the conflict. My learning curve may be a steep climb compared to other new employees, but I wasn’t stupid. I could see what was going on and I knew what they were thinking of, even if they tried their very best to hide their facial tics. I could read their expressions. I could see their emotions openly displayed on their faces for everyone to see. I could tell what they wanted from me. Or rather, what they didn’t want from me.

Oh, I could see everything.

I knew early on that conflict is a part of everyday life. There was conflict everywhere. There was conflict at home with your spouse or children. There was conflict at work with your boss or your coworkers. There was even conflict in nature! Here’s the thing though, the fact that conflict occurs isn’t the issue but how to go about resolving the conflict is what matters. The last thing you want is to have conflict with anyone, whether it’s with your family, your friends, or your coworkers because all these stressful exchanges compromises the positive energy you have with them, resulting in a strained and negative environment.

So what happens now?

Well, I’ve done nothing so far but avoid confronting the conflict. It’s the sad truth. I didn’t want to be concerned about the issue, yet I was troubled by it. I didn’t want to bring it up and settle it right away. I chose to go about my daily routine and hoped that the problem will somehow magically fade away on its own.

Why do we avoid conflict though?

It is understood, however, that humans naturally shied away from anything that made us feel emotional and uncomfortable. Some of us would walk around aimlessly and look at every other place but the problem at hand, or stick our heads in the sand like ostriches, or just do whatever it takes to avoid feeling uncomfortable. I know, because that’s what I’m doing now and unfortunately, it is the easiest road, or so I thought.

Wrong. We think that by taking the easy way out, that conflict would move on to someone or someplace else, but we’re actually allowing the situation to simmer and boil over, which makes it all the more difficult to handle as time passes. They will fester like nasty blisters and become unmanageable, even if they initially started out small. We do well to complain about conflicts and the people involved to anyone who would listen, but we don’t have the courage to say or do anything about it. Well, not all of us.

We are afraid that by taking the issue by the horns, it could mean potentially hurting someone else’s feelings. We actively avoid conflicts as best as possible if we thought that it might make us feel anxious or look bad in front of others. The mere thought of confrontation made us sweat and shiver.

But here’s the truth. We don’t avoid confrontation. We avoid the way it makes us feel and look in front of others. We avoid confrontation because of:

  • the fear of rejection when standing up for ourselves
  • not believing that we have a valid opinion
  • the feeling of being unsure of what we actually need and want
  • the possibility of having suffered a negative experience or two in the past
  • the possibility of hurting someone else’s feelings
  • the lack of confidence and conviction in our values and beliefs

According to an article on, 50% of employees reported that they accomplished less when dealing with an office-related conflict, while 46% said that the thought of quitting had crossed their minds. Hence, it is important that we look for ways to reduce the tensions. But how, exactly?

Well, after having read the articles on several websites, it seems that the only way and best way about it is to approach the conflict as calmly and diplomatically as possible. Approach the person and talk to him or her. Explain how the conflict is making you feel. Be honest. Be yourself. It is also important that you know what exactly is going on by listening to the other person’s story instead of jumping to conclusions and making assumptions. Don’t let emotions get the better of you. Getting angry isn’t going to help. It’ll just make matters worse. If nothing else works, you can always get someone else to stand in as a mediator.

Now I wonder if I can take my own advice on Monday.

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