Dealing With Conflict in the Workplace

You’re loving your job, things are going along just fine, then one day – BOOM. Conflict strikes. It could be a falling out with a colleague, a nasty new boss, or just a disagreement amongst team members. Either way, it’s uncomfortable, and it can suck the fun out of any workplace. The unfortunate thing is, it’s never a matter of if conflict strikes, it’s when. So, to prepare you for the inevitable, I’ve come up with a few tips that can help you to deal with even the most conflict-ridden situations.

Take a Breath
In my 25 years of working, I’ve found that most workplace conflicts arise from misunderstandings. It could be that you don’t have all the information, or that someone else doesn’t. The conflict could arise because of a rumour. When a conflict happens, the first thing you should do is take a breath. Walk away, and cool down a bit. Even the act of taking a few deep breaths can put you in a better state of mind to deal with things.

Assess the Situation
What lead to the conflict? Was it simply a misunderstanding? Is someone spreading untruths around the office? Is it a personality conflict? Take some time to figure out what circumstances led to the conflict in the first place. Knowing how it happened can often lead you to a solution.

Don’t React, Talk
Sometimes our automatic reaction when a conflict happens is to lash out or get defensive. This is not be the ideal way to handle things. In a professional environment, it’s best to sit down and talk things out as soon as possible. Involve a third party who can mediate if things are particularly heated, but focus on communication, rather than reaction. Let each person air their side of the story in a calm manner, and then with the circumstances laid out, begin to work on a solution.

Be Solution-Oriented
Nobody wants conflict to drag on, so ideally both parties involved in the conflict should be solution-oriented. What will make the conflict easier to manage? Can we resolve this? Is there clearly a right and wrong in the situation, and if so, what is it? If right and wrong are more a matter of opinion, how can we come to a compromise? Do we need to agree to disagree? Work together to find a solution to the problem at hand.

Forgive and Forget
Once you’ve reached a solution to the conflict, be a professional. Apologize if warranted, and accept an apology if one is given. And whatever you do, don’t hold grudges against people. Even if the situation didn’t work out in your favour, it does nobody any good to carry around the negativity of the conflict after it’s been resolved. Move on.

Conflicts in the workplace are never easy to deal with, but if you do so in a calm, rational manner they can certainly be less stressful. Good luck!

Susan Murphy

Susan Murphy has been working in media and communications for 25 years. She is an award winning television producer with hundreds of shows to her credit. Susan is a partner and digital storyteller at Jester Creative Inc., where she helps people find compelling ways to connect with their audience through video, web design, social media, and training. - See more at:

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