Ways to Handle Conflict in the Workplace

When people are cooped up together in a small space for 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year, conflicts are bound to arise. The important thing is how you and colleagues handle these conflicts when they happen. Do disagreements escalate quickly or is your team able to keep things in perspective and resolve disputes calmly? Read on to learn about how to best equip your workplace–and yourself–to handle conflicts in a professional manner when they come up.

1.       Stop conflicts before they even start. What does this mean? Keep your ear to the ground so you know what’s going on in your office.

2.       Sometimes, conflicts will still occur, no matter how you try to prevent them. In these cases, address them as quickly as possible. Don’t try to ignore or deny existing conflicts because they will only grow worse with time.

3.       Have a good, trained HR team in place with an employee policy manual which covers tricky topics. By having objectives, set rules about things like unpaid time off, working from home, or harassment, your company will take the subjective, emotional aspect out of situations. Furthermore, a trained Human Resources team can help you navigate risky legal pitfalls.

4.       Make sure people are talking with each other, not at each other. Conversations to resolve conflict should involve listening to others and acknowledging what is being said.

5.       Is it the result of a communication problem? Are you communicating information clearly and effectively or do you create uncertainty or confusion with your waffling commination style? If the conflict is the result of a mistake you’ve made, except that graciously, improve in the future, and move on. You would expect the same from any direct report.

6.       Assume positive intentions. You don’t know what’s going on in any other person’s head, so don’t make assumptions about where they’re coming from.

7.       Don’t blame others or impose your personal opinions on them. Stick to the facts when discussing conflict situations. People find it harder to deny facts than opinions, so you’ll find it easier to reach a breakthrough this way.

8.       Listen to the full story and ask open-ended questions to gain a complete perspective. Create a safe environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their opinions. Remember, you don’t need to agree with those opinions, but you must understand them in order to come up with an effective resolution to the conflict.

9.       Together, create a plan with actionable items to resolve the conflict. In a set period of time (one week, one month, etc.), come together and discuss whether the situation has improved. If not, you may need to adjust your action items.

Using these tips, you will no longer need to be afraid of conflict. Instead, you’ll embrace it as an opportunity to strengthen your team and improve your own skills as a leader.