5 Tips for Resolving Workplace Arguments

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Workplace arguments happen, whether we like it or not. It can be uncomfortable to navigate these conflicts, especially when neither party is willing to budge. But, no matter how dug in both sides have become, there are ways to move past ideological stalemates.

There are many good reasons to do so. Conflicts at work can be very disruptive. A 2008 study found that U.S. employees spend an average of 2.8 hours a week dealing with conflict. Workplace arguments hurt morale and engagement. And, conflicts can even impact retention and a company’s bottom line if they go unchecked for too long. Luckily, there are ways to work toward resolution.

1. Realize that conflict is normal and to be expected.

When you’re in the middle of a particularly challenging conflict, it’s only natural to wish it away and cross your fingers that nothing like this ever happens again. But, it’s important to remember that conflicts are normal. People disagree with one another on occasion. You see this in your personal life. So, why should it surprise you when it comes up at work?

Try to remember that it’s how you handle conflicts that matters. It’s futile to attempt to avoid them altogether. It helps to accept that the occasional workplace disagreement is just a part of life. In some ways, it’s actually a good sign. These kinds of conflicts mean that everyone is engaged and passionate. Start by accepting the fact that conflicts happen. This should help to reduce the stress that exists around the issue, which will help you work toward a solution.

2. Control your emotions.

There are certain behavioral lines that just shouldn’t be crossed at work. When tempers flare, you need to work hard to control your emotions. And, it’s reasonable to expect a certain level of consideration and professionalism from others, too. For example, it’s not okay to name-call or raise voices during a dispute at work. Instead, the matter should be discussed in a reasoned and logical way.

It’s important to step back if emotions start to get out of hand, since it’s nearly impossible to find a solution while tempers are running high. A little time off could do the trick. It’s perfectly all right to ask to take a break under these circumstances.

3. Understand the “why” behind the beliefs.

Intense conflicts often arise because people have competing agendas, priorities or belief systems. Understanding why each side feels the way they do is essential if you’re ever to move past conflict. It’s important to understand that one side wants one thing and the other side wants another. But, it’s more difficult to really unpack why each side feels the way they do.

Once we properly and compassionately understand these drivers, it should be a lot easier to come to an agreement that works for everyone. So, focus on understanding the reasons behind the beliefs. Once that’s accomplished, it should be a lot easier to find a solution everyone can agree with.

4. Be ready to feel kind of disappointed.

Ideally, a good compromise means that everyone feels happy with the outcome. Unfortunately, in the real world, people often have to settle for something that feels almost like the opposite of that. Sometimes a good compromise means that both sides feel a little disappointed.

If you can manage to find a solution that everyone can live with, even if no one is thrilled by it, you may be on the path to resolution.

5. Move past it.

Once you’ve resolved a difficult conflict, it’s important to consciously move on. It might make sense to reflect on the experience and think about how you can hone communication skills to minimize the destructive impact of future conflicts. But, it’s also important to leave the problem in the past.

One way to do that is to find ways to laugh and have fun together. You might try to schedule some group activity to encourage everyone to think as a team, or just change the subject to something less fraught. Whatever you decide, the essential thing is to move on as a group, and put your focus on bigger and better things.

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