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Tips for Navigating Conflict at Work

By Matthew Yonally

When you spend half of your day in the same space with the same people, you are bound to come across conflict. It is a natural part of life. While it may feel intimidating and off-putting, effective conflict management aids in employee success and employee productivity. Use the following tips to learn how to resolve conflict effectively.

Pick Your Battles - While it can tempting to step in and act as a peacemaker, sometimes it is best to avoid weighing in on challenging situations. The intentions are from a good place, but not all see it as such, and those who give involved rather than opting to stay out of it can create more tension or make things worse. This tip isn’t as useful when you are in a position to resolve the conflict, but it can be helpful for weeding out the smaller inconveniences from the brewing dispute.

Assumptions - We don’t need to explain assumptions or how the instinct to assume that we have all the information can lead to future problems for a team, so instead let’s talk about ways we can use our abilities to be successful. When it comes to assumptions, always assume good intentions from coworkers, subordinates, and superiors; doing the opposite will undermine any progress or success you could have. Always assume that you are missing a piece to the puzzle and look for different insights and knowledge.

Stop Tension - While it can be beneficial to pick your battles, it is essential to understand that allowing tension to increase can make matters worse, and not only for those involved in the conflict. All teammates will feel the tension, and the company culture and productivity will be negatively impacted. Instead, choose to be “the adult” in the room and take the first step towards a resolution, even if it is uncomfortable.

Breathe - Nothing offers more perspective to conflict than taking some time to breathe and reflect. Rather than allowing emotions to climb, take a few moments to breathe before addressing the issue. Wait until things cool down, but don’t put it off. The sooner it is discussed the better.

Active listening - Rather than approaching a conflict with a list of grievances to be fixed, approach the conflict with questions on how to better understand the opposing side. Active listening is about more than asking follow-up questions; it requires full attention, eye contact, and the acknowledgment of the other person’s feelings and perspectives. Choosing to spend time on preventative behaviors rather than negative feelings helps to find a resolution and to avoid conflicts in the future.

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