The workplace is usually an environment where many conflicts arise – between managers and employees or among colleagues.  This

Resolving conflict in the workplace


may be due to the long hours that co-workers spend together, the stress level that a project creates, or simply because of personality clashes.  Generally, there are two kinds of conflict in the workplace.  The first is due to opposing ideas or differing opinions on a certain issue.  This kind of conflict, as long as it is managed well, can often lead to productive results, meeting one common goal.  The other kind of conflict is due to differences in personality.  This kind is much more difficult to resolve, and most of the leaves at least one party unhappy or dissatisfied with the results.

If you’re reading this article, chances are, you often encounter this problem as a manager in your workplace, or perhaps, you’re a party to the conflict, and just like everyone else, wish to find ways to smooth things out.  Whenever conflict arises, the general rules and principles of acceptable human behavior should be followed, so as not to aggravate things, and ultimately, come to a resolution.  “Rules of engagement” should also be observed so that “damage” and “casualties” are kept to minimum.

How then, can one help resolve conflict in the workplace?

1.      Identify what kind of conflict you’re dealing with.  Is it a conflict of ideas, decisions or actions relating directly to the job?  Or is it a case of two people not getting along because they have clashing personalities?  The longer a conflict has been going on, the harder it will be to evaluate.  Usually, a long-term conflict muddles the lines between what is a professional matter and personal.  If the parties get angry because of a particular work-related issue, it must be a dispute over business matters.  If the parties are frustrated or angry with each other all the time, and the reasons being are neither work nor business related, then the conflict must be due to something personal.

2.     If the conflict is over business ideas, decisions or actions, it can be managed and resolved by making sure that the parties stick to the issue at all times.

  • Parties in conflict should learn to acknowledge and respect different opinions – they are just as valid as theirs
  • Reflect on why there is resistance – is it because the issue is really that important and you feel that strongly about it, or you just didn’t like how the other person presented his opinion?
  • Agree to disagree, then compromise.  The conflicting parties should decide that the ultimate goal is to solve the problem, rather than “win” the argument.  Compromising on some matters is the only way to come up with an amicable solution agreeable to both parties.
  • Set aside judgmental feelings about the other person, be open to other points of views and be willing to listen and understand.
  • Call in a mediator – a third party arbitrating and guiding the discussion may help keep the debate within the issue.

3.     If the conflict is because of opposing personalities, it will be difficult to resolve until one party agrees to change his attitude or behavior.

  • Parties should accept that different folks have different strokes.
  • Realise how affected you are by one person, how much energy you waste just thinking of your disdain, and how you can invest that energy in more important things, or more productive ways.
  • Stop ranting about the other person to other people.  If you hold it in and not talk about it, it will start affecting you less, until you’re no longer affected.  Talking about the other person to other people can further aggravate the conflict as it can become a never ending “he said – she said” story.
  • You may not like someone for personal reasons but when it comes to work, keep it professional and reasonable.  Respect the other person’s position in the organisation.
  • Work towards making the workplace a friendlier environment.

Office conflicts should be managed and controlled at the onset.  Managers should be able to spot a brewing issue, and immediately work on smoothing things out before it escalates into an uncontrollable level.  Activities that foster camaraderie and strengthen relationships between colleagues should be done regularly.  For most employees, liking the people they work with and getting along well with them, is a worthy intangible part of the job.

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Paul Bailey

Paul is a highly experienced Business Coach, Mentor and Personal Development Specialist. He works with people to enhance business and personal performance through a process of supported self-awareness and self- development. Paul is the Co-Author of the book 80 Tips.