Tips for Resolving Conflict at Work

Occasional conflict at work is inevitable. Don’t let it fester. Putting effort into resolving conflict can result in these benefits: 

  • Creates an environment that values different perspectives
  • Strengthens employee commitment
  • Strengthens working relationships
  • Encourages collaborative problem solving
  • Promotes creativity

Separate the person from the problem – Focusing on the problem removes the risk of making personal judgment. Each person involved sees the conflict from their own perspective and reality. It is unlikely that you will be able to convince another person they are wrong. By focusing on the problem, you find a common ground and can move forward to identify solutions for resolving the conflict going forward. 

Seek to learn rather than accuse – Often times one party feels they know what the problem or conflict is, when in reality they only know portions of the problem. Moving forward without understanding what the problem or conflict is can lead to increased frustration on the part of both parties. Rather than assuming you know what the problem is, seek understanding from the other side by asking questions and truly listening to his/her response.

Ask neutral, non-judgmental questions – Asking neutral, non-judgmental questions will help you understand what the problem or conflict is, so that you can successfully move forward to find a resolution. These types of questions are open-ended and non-leading. The question should cause the person to think of his/her response to find a solution. You can then determine how the person feels by their response. Here are some sample questions:

  • Will you describe the situation as you see it?
  • Will you take a minute to summarize what is most important to you?
  • Is there another possible way to get what you need in this situation?
  • What is most important to you?
  • What is your best choice?
  • What is your worst choice?
  • What do you need from (the other person) in order to accomplish your goal?

Listen – Listening may seem like an easy task that you do every day. However, effective listening takes time and practice to master.

  • Keep an open mind – don’t assume you know what the person will say
  • Give the speaker your full attention – remove any distractions
  • Hear what the person is saying – don’t plan your response while the person is still talking. Be a sponge and just absorb what the person is saying
  • Don’t interrupt – if you need to make notes in order to remember points you want to make, then do so
  • Avoid getting defensive – easier said than done, but important to truly resolve conflict
  • Repeat what you heard the person say in your own words

Remain calm – Getting upset will escalate the problem and interfere with the solution. Take deep breaths and focus on the problem. If you need to take a break, then do so and resume the meeting at a later time.