Career Advice Workplace
How to Deal with Conflict in The Workplace
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By: Mariah Rogers
Apr 20, 2020 • 5 min read

Working with others means there will always be conflict. Here’s how to deal with it!

While you will probably come across great coworkers and mentors along your career path, it is unlikely you will get along with everyone you work with. Sometimes, coworkers or supervisors will not match your personality type or work style. However, it is important to overcome these challenges and work together to complete the task at hand. Being professional and composed when handling people who test your patience is not always easy. Here are some tips on how to deal with conflict in the workplace.

Take a Breath

Even if someone is really testing your patience, take a breath, and count to 10. You don’t want to risk your job over a conflict that happens between co-workers. There is always a better way to handle conflict, so let’s learn about it!

Professionalism

Remind yourself that you are at work and have a job to do. Sometimes, focusing your frustrated energy on a task can be beneficial and turn the situation into a positive one. Keeping your professional composure in times of stress will resonate well with coworkers and supervisors. Leading by example and being able to remain positive during conflict is a great example to demonstrate. Others will be inspired to follow your lead, resulting in a much more productive work environment!

Example: If we all continue to work in this tense environment, we will not be very productive. Let us all take a 15-minute break and start again.

Apple MacBook beside computer mouse on table

Talk It Out

If you are a manager or in a position where you can check in on the employee who is acting up, do so. Showing compassion and empathy will allow the employee to communicate with you as to what is driving their poor behavior. Building this kind of trust and openness in the workplace will allow for more open conversation. Talk to people! Ask if they are okay. Show compassion, show you care, and you will be amazed at the change in behavior from others you work with. This might help reduce the amount of conflict you have to deal with.

Example: I have noticed your behavior at work has changed and you seem to be less focused on tasks. Is everything okay? How can I support you so that the team can still reach our goals?

If you aren’t a manager, and are just dealing with co-workers that are difficult to work with, try to find a solution among yourselves first. Maybe you are working on a project together that just isn’t going well. Maybe they are simply having a bad day. Perhaps you are doing something that is bothering them! Regardless of what the situation is, you won’t know until you ask. Take it upon yourself to be the bigger person and reach out.

Example: Hey, I noticed that we are having trouble working together. Is there something that I can do to help you better? 

If that doesn’t work, it might be time to pull in a manager or supervisor. But use this as a last resort. You don’t want to waste your manager’s time, or make them think you can’t solve problems on your own.

Synergy

Strive for synergy. Synergy represents the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, which is exactly the goal of every team. If you are dealing with conflict in the workplace and want to build a stronger community, consider diving into the 7 Habits book. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey is a phenomenal read if you are looking to improve your management and teamwork skills at your job. You can order the book here from Amazon. Give it a read and apply it to your career! Keep your goals at the forefront of your work and don’t focus on the small things that bother you.

Example: I am noticing that we are having trouble keeping our tasks prioritized. Instead of having an argument on what each of us is doing wrong, why don’t we sit down and talk about how we can work better together. 

person in red sweater holding babys hand

Compromise

If you can find a way for both people experiencing conflict to get their way, then everybody wins. Try speaking with the person who you are having a conflict with to find out areas to compromise on. This conversation will also build more mutual respect and a better relationship with your fellow employees.

Example: I do not mind being on trash duty, but I feel that it is unfair for me to do it every day. How about we compromise, I will do it Monday, Wednesday and Friday while you can do it Tuesday and Thursday?

Set Standards and Rules

Sometimes conflict can arise from miscommunication or poorly defined rules. It can be difficult for employees and coworkers to know how to act in the workplace without clearly defined standards. It is important to set standards of attitude, quality of performance, treatment of customers and treatment of others. Having defined standards will hold workers accountable and make it clear when actions are unacceptable. Standards can be encouraging and help employees to feel safe and accounted for in the workplace! Set clear rules and boundaries in order to deal with conflict before it happens.

Example: I know that we continue having the same problems with this project. Instead of arguing about it over and over again, let’s set some rules that will help everyone know exactly what they need to be doing to get the job done well. 

Do you have any tips on how to deal with conflict in the workplace? Let us know!