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7 Tips for Resolving Workplace Conflicts

Topics: Career Advice
Conflicts in the workplace happen. They’re a fact of working life. It can feel pretty crummy when you’re wading through one of these challenges. But, if handled well, workplace conflicts can lead to progress — for the individuals involved and for the business as a whole.
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However, if mishandled, they can cause even more problems. Whether your conflict is with a boss, a coworker, or someone you supervise, there are some concrete steps that you can take to help steer things in the right direction.

1. If the problem is personal, resolve it outside of the office.

Having friends at work can be really nice, and an awful lot of romantic relationships have started in the workplace as well. However, if you’ve run into difficulties in such a relationship, you should work hard to stop the conflict from impacting your professionalism. Even though the person is close by, put the problem out of your mind as best as you can until after hours. Also, try not to bring other coworkers in on the issue. If you do want to discuss the problem you’re having with someone else, do so with personal friends. Keep the challenge, and the process of its resolution, as far away from the office as possible.

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2. Stay calm — inside and out.

It’s essential that you stay composed when trying to resolve a conflict at work, whether it’s with a team member, your boss, or someone else. It’s more than all right to be passionate about what you do for a living. But, when you’re trying to work through a problem, it’s important to be calm. You’ll be able to think more clearly if you do, and that will help you to resolve the problem more quickly. So, take a few deep breaths, and tackle the problem logically. When you share your ideas and position with others, do so in a relaxed and easy way. This should encourage the other person to meet your tone and match your calm and reasoned approach.

3. Listen.

At the heart of a great many conflicts you tend to find the same problem — that one person or another feels misunderstood. It’s natural to want to clarify your position when you’re immersed in one of these challenges. However, don’t forget that you also need to work hard to understand the other person’s position. It can be difficult to exercise our best listening skills when it the midst of a conflict. So, anticipate that challenge and work hard to keep this important objective in mind.

4. Focus on the issue, not the person who disagrees.

Remind yourself to keep your actions and remarks focused on the problem at hand, rather than on the other person, as you work to calmly and professionally hash out this issue. You’ll resolve the conflict more quickly if you stay focused on it and minimize the digressions. Plus, it’s simply more professional and mature; workplace challenges shouldn’t be taken too personally. So, stay focused on the issue throughout the resolution process.

Conflict at work? Focus on the issue, not the person with whom you're disagreeing.Click To Tweet

5. Remember the definition of a compromise.

One way to understand a compromise is that often when one is reached, both people feel a little disappointed. Of course, both parties should also feel a little satisfied, a bit pleased with how things landed. But, if they’ve met in the middle, they’ve both given a little something up, too. Be ready to give a little more than you’d really prefer. Try to recognize a decent compromise when you see it.

6. Set parameters and organize the resolution process.

No matter who you’re conflicting with, and no matter what the disagreement is about, setting some parameters can help you resolve things more quickly. Pick a time to discuss the matter. (Establish a time you’re going to stop talking about it, too.) And, set some concrete goals and objectives for the meeting. Stay professional. Stay calm. And, be willing to bend and compromise. You’ll be able to settle things and move on more quickly with the help of the right attitude and a little organization.

7. View conflict as opportunity.

The way we think about things and the attitude we embrace makes such a big difference in how we feel about our lives. Conflicts happen. They’re normal. And, they really are opportunities for us to learn, to practice, and to demonstrate and improve our abilities. Conflicts give us the chance to grow. If you can manage to remember this throughout this process, you’ll find out just how true it really is.

Tell Us What You Think

How do you resolve conflicts at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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Nance
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Nance

Are you kidding? These ‘solutions’ could only work if everyone was at least marginally logical and not overtly emotional…and back-stabbers are everywhere. I have worked with psychos, bullies, schizophrenics, loud mouths (and my least favorite: The Sacred Cow). Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: the ‘religious amount us’. Bible thumpers who tried to convert me on the job and go to their church (and they were malicious behind my back). The ‘rules’ you suggest here could only work in high functioning/well established firms that may also have an Ombudsman on board. The average Jill/Joe would not benefit from your advice. Narcissists are… Read more »

Annalien
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Annalien

I agree with the points but what do you do if the person is targeting you on a personal level and get her friend – the National HR manager involved? During the “discussion” that feels like a gang up session nothing you say makes a difference while you sit there and hear her telling lies without blinking an eye and without any further investigating you are guilty and stubborn and the end result is you have to take the personal attack because she is senior to you on a work level – not said in those words but implied purely… Read more »

Guest
Guest
Guest

This is good advice. Though it really depends on the management skills, either you have or your boss. I came from management to new a company and started at the bottom. Looked more promising. Everything was great. Climbing the ladder. That management team was let go and replaced by worse people. Discussions are not taken for value only lip service now. The people running the place have taken very drastic steps to ensure the employees know they are not important. The leads are left undesirable. Gossiping, unprofessional and have no real goals other than a paycheck. Sad i wish i… Read more »

guest
Guest
guest

I’m sure that we’d all like to work aboard the Starship Enterprise with Picard as Captain and everything is hunky dory but at best we’re on Ferengi ships, usual case we’re in Mirror Universe with Evil Kirk and advancement by backstabbing is normal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror,_Mirror_(Star_Trek:_The_Original_Series)

Jizzu
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Jizzu

Short of a racial slur or sexual harrassment, avoid work conflict. Ive seen both parties get fired, regardless of who started it. Especially in large companies.

Nance
Guest
Nance

Are You Kidding?

Malika
Guest
Malika

In My opinion workplace conflicts occurs due to different personalities. If try to know each others personality and consider there advantages and disadvantages then we can avoids personality conflicts.

zell
Guest
zell

There are two types of management , according to the business studies,
X and Y.
Strict and friendly.
both are effective with different scenarios,
you cant stay cool and calm all the time while on senior post. though i am polite person but sometimes have to change behavior because of more responsibilities.

Susan
Guest
Susan

mmmmm, not a great article.

Jan
Guest
Jan

Although the tips are truly common sense, this does provide an excellent answer to the frequent interview question of “how do you manage conflicts”. My usual response is not typically this well-worded however the fundamentals are the same – Listen to the other person’s point of view to be sure you CLEARLY understand the issue – Focus on the issue, not the person – Be open to compromise – ABOVE ALL ELSE, Remain calm and act with respect and professionalism. Not only will this result in a more productive discussion, you will earn the respect of the other party, making… Read more »

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