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Six Tips for Successfully Handling Workplace Conflict


Occasional conflict in the workplace is an inevitable part of life, regardless of what industry you’re working in. After all, each employee brings his own set of values, attitudes, and beliefs to the workplace– which may or may not jive with the beliefs of his co-workers. When managed effectively, conflict in the workplace can create an opportunity for growth on the part of all employees involved. When not handled effectively, however, workplace conflict can become detrimental to the company, leading to lower productivity and higher turnover. If you find yourself involved in workplace conflict– and chances are, at some point you will– consider the following tips for successfully navigating the storm:

Address it early on.

One of the biggest mistakes employees make when it comes to workplace conflict is ignoring the issues until they escalate. Many people mistakenly assume that if they just wait it out, things will naturally improve. This is almost never the case. When not tackled head-on, problems in the workplace don’t disappear; instead, they often become exacerbated. So, when you notice a problem brewing, address it from the start. Pull the involved parties aside and get the issues out in the open so you can begin to work towards a solution.

Be a good listener.

When it comes to conflict, people have a tendency to talk more than they listen. After all, they want to make sure their points are heard loud and clear. However, one of the keys to successfully resolving workplace conflict is to practice active listening. As difficult as that may be when you feel like you’ve been wronged, it can go a long way towards a resolution. Instead of attacking, then, try asking questions to gain an understanding of the other party’s perspective. Don’t just ask the questions, though; truly listen to the answers given. Remember to focus on the issue that needs to be addressed; avoid turning the dialogue into a discussion of the other person’s character.

Ask the other party for a solution.

One potentially effective approach towards resolution is simply asking the other party to suggest a solution to the problem. For example, if you’re working on a project together and you feel like your co-worker isn’t carrying his weight, simply ask, “What can we do to ensure that we’re both equally responsible for getting this project completed by our deadline?” That way, instead of focusing on the negativity surrounding the conflict, the discussion becomes constructive as you both search for a solution to the problem.

Organize a meeting.

Maybe your conflict isn’t with a single co-worker, but a group of individuals. For example, perhaps communal kitchen supplies aren’t being replenished. In this instance, it might be worthwhile to organize a department meeting to address the issue at hand. Let your co-workers know your concern, and then implement a solution. In the case of the disappearing kitchen supplies, a schedule posted in the kitchen area can let employees know when it’s their turn to bring in coffee pods or sugar.

Consider your own role in the conflict.

It’s easy to blame the other party when you find yourself involved in a workplace conflict. Rarely, however, is one party entirely to blame. So, before you attempt to tackle the issue, take a good, long look in the mirror and consider your own role in the conflict. How have you contributed to the problem? What could you have done differently to prevent the conflict? What can you do now to help resolve it?

Know when to turn to HR.

Sometimes, workplace conflict is so severe that it needs to be addressed with human resources. For example, if you are being harassed by a co-worker, it’s necessary to alert HR. They can then walk you through your company’s procedure for filing a formal complaint.

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