Healthy Ways to Resolve Workplace Conflict and Preserve Your Business Relationships

Woman meditating at her desk while two coworkers try to yell things at her

Workplace conflict is bound to happen throughout your career. Learn how to take advantage of moments of discord to identify opportunities for growth, learning, and collaboration while also steering clear of highly toxic people who thrive on conflict.

Here of some healthy communication and coping strategies for turning workplace conflicts into positive moments of change and transformation for you and for your team:

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Practice active listening

Even if you already know you disagree with a person and your mind is made up, the simple act of hearing them out and letting them know you truly hear and understand their point of view (even if you don’t agree with it) can go a long way to breaking down barriers and opening the lines for more productive communication on both ends. People will ultimately be most receptive to your ideas if they feel respected, heard, and validated, and you don’t have to agree with them to convey any of those things.

Reframe the way you view conflict

See conflict not just as a problem to be solved but more as an opportunity for growth and to identify new and innovative ways of doing things. Look at it as an opportunity to solve challenges together, not a problem that has to just go away as soon as possible. In short, when you’re experiencing conflict at work, make growing and learning the priority, not just winning the argument.

Practice empathy

A little empathy goes a long way. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand their perspective. The ability to empathize is one of the key components of healthy conflict resolution. If you come from a place of understanding, you’ll be more inclined to focus on how you can help them collaborate on a solution.  

Re-phrase their complaint

Speak it back to them, “So, I’m hearing you’re main concern is ‘x’, is that right?” If their perspective is ultimately out of line or unreasonable, hearing it spoken back to them may shock your colleague into their senses as they try to course-correct and pivot to a more collaborative tone. At the very least, it will let them know you understand their point of view and could make them more willing to work with you on a solution.

Never get personal

If you descend into name-calling, aggressions (or micro-aggressions), bullying, shouting, dismissive behavior, or any kind of personal attack on the person, you will immediately put them on the defensive, and any hope for fruitful collaboration will quickly fade. No matter how vehemently you disagree with their point of view, keep your cool, maintain a calm demeanor, and rely only on the power of your logic and reasoning to make your case. Let your ideas speak for themselves.

Make a clear plan

It’s not simply enough to apologize or resolve a conflict and move forward, but you need a clear plan going forward so that the problem doesn’t continue to crop up. Work together with your colleague to come up with the best solution for everyone so that the root of the problem is addressed and won’t leading to conflict.

Be flexible, willing to compromise

You may not get your way 100% of the time, and that’s ok. Be willing to give in a little when it won’t negatively affect the outcome and if it means a lot to the other person. An act of good faith or a gesture of goodwill in times of conflict can do a lot to build and strengthen the bonds you have with your coworkers and set you up for success in future conflicts as well. Simply put, sometimes you have to give a little to gain a lot.

Reduce contact

If you have a persistent conflict with a problematic individual at work and all other methods of conflict resolution have failed, try to reduce the amount of contact you need to have with that person or avoid trigger situations. Rather than continuing to escalate the tensions, diffuse it by taking yourself out of the equation and letting their own toxicity speak for itself, which it naturally will.

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