Conflict occurs in all areas of life, including the workplace. It’s normal to disagree with your coworkers sometimes. After all, you’re going to have different ideas from time to time. The way you handle the conflict can help you in your career. When you work through conflicts, you can identify common goals and end up with closer working relationships. In the end, you may find you’re more productive and happier in your workplace.
Dealing with conflict can help you have:
Take a few minutes to think about what’s bothering you. Is it about the other person? Is there something else going on? Once you understand your feelings, it’s easier to work through the conflict.
Be sure to stay focused on the objective rather than the emotional aspects of the conflict. Remain calm and avoid problems that may escalate the conflict such as arguing, name calling, or cursing. Notice your tone of voice, how loud you are, and your body language. To learn more about assertive communication, read our “Learn to Communicate Assertively at Work” (Handout).
Find out if your workplace has policies or procedures for how to deal with conflict in the workplace or for having meetings to resolve conflict. You may want to check in with your manager or supervisor for advice on how to proceed. Your workplace may even have resources to help you address conflict effectively, should you need it.
Having a set time to work through issues can help you meet your goals. Decide on a time and place to privately discuss your concerns. How much time is available for the meeting? What will you do if you cannot finish the meeting on time? Ask your supervisor to be present and mediate if needed.
Think about the possible outcomes if the conflict is resolved. Which one do you most want? Each person should write out what he or she wants to accomplish in the meeting and rank order his or her objectives. Decide whether you want to exchange this list ahead of time or at the start of the meeting.
You may need to set some rules for your meeting. Your rules can include being respectful, taking turns when speaking, not talking over the other person, and taking a break if needed.
You want your meeting to run smoothly. Depending on how challenging the conflict is, you may need to:
Resolving conflicts is not about winning or losing. So stay focused on “the problem” instead of the person. Write down possible solutions and decide which ones would best resolve the problem for you as well as other coworkers. Write down every solution you can think of. Ask your coworker to help you think of other possible solutions.
Clarify how you’re going to put your idea into action. It’s sometimes helpful to write this down to avoid any misunderstanding. Decide how you will know if your plan is working.
Evaluate each solution with these questions:
Afterwards, talk about how your plan is working. If the first solution doesn’t work, choose another solution from your list to carry out.
If you are unable to resolve the issue together, you might choose to meet with your supervisor to review concerns and get direction.
You can keep difficult discussions positive and constructive by following this guide. The earlier you address a problem, the better the chance of resolving it. Conflict is normal. If you stay calm and focused, you might find yourself having additional success at both work and home.
If you are a manager or supervisor, you may be interested in reading our “Managing Conflict” (Handout).
If you are meeting with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider, you may want to discuss how to effectively resolve conflict with him or her, practice having discussions about conflict, and ask for feedback.