Workplace Conflict Resolution

April 04, 2020

Workplace Conflict Resolution

Conflict is inevitable.  Wherever there is relationship, there will always be occasional moments of friction.  Workplace conflict does not always signal a serious problem.  However, failure to handle conflict in a productive way will make the situation worse. The end result is usually lower team morale, higher absentee rates, and lower productivity.  Many times when conflict occurs we gravitate to one of two extremes, either avoiding it or battling it out.  This rarely results in conflict resolution.

Conflict Causes

What are the causes of conflict?  There are as many potential conflicts as there are unique personalities present in your workplace.  There really are endless reasons for conflict to arise, but the most common ones are listed here:

  • Lack of communication- People have different styles of communicating and relaying information. Misunderstandings can easily happen in person and over email.
  • Different personalities- Personalities may clash when people don’t understand each other well. The problem itself is not the differences, but the unwillingness to recognize them.
  • Lack of motivation- Sometimes people aren’t performing well and don’t really care. When this goes unaddressed, conflict ensues.
  • Lack of resources- Occasionally, people will compete for resources when there is not enough time or materials to get every task finished.
  • Different values- People view the world in different ways. Failing to acknowledge and respect these differences results in conflict. 
  • Ignoring facts- Viewing situations from emotion and opinion rather than accepting facts will bring difficulty for you and your coworkers.

Dealing with Conflict

There are healthy and unhealthy ways of handling conflict.  Some unhealthy ways include avoiding conflict, blaming others or circumstances, competing with one another, appeasing others, and giving in to others for a temporary solution.  A healthier approach toward conflict resolution is to compromise and collaborate toward a positive result.  


Positive Resolution Strategies

The obvious goal is a unified approach to optimal performance within the workplace.  When resolutions are reached, everyone wins.  Getting there can be difficult, so here are some practical steps to help you reach positive results. 

  • Focus on results- The ultimate goal when conflict arises is not to “win your argument.” The purpose is to resolve the issue and get results. 
  • Communicate in-person- Conflicts should be addressed face-to-face. A phone call is the next best option if an in-person meeting is not possible.  Avoid emails or written correspondence, as these usually lead to greater misunderstanding.
  • Be proactive- Try to catch conflict “sparks” before they blaze out of control. Identify potential triggers and address them early, on the front-end.  This is especially helpful before tempers flare.

The following steps will help lead you toward a positive resolution:

  1. Define the problem- It’s important to verbalize what you think is causing the conflict. This helps others understand your perspective, and allowing others to do the same gives greater insight into their thought processes as well.
  2. Define motivations- Next, everyone should share why they want to resolve this conflict. Explain how resolution will make a difference in their lives and in the workplace as a whole.
  3. Brainstorm- Third, give each person involved an opportunity to express how he or she would like to see the problem handled.
  4. Implement- Lastly, outline the steps needed to implement these changes. What does the end result look like? 

Play Fair

Here are some additional tools to stay fair when trying to resolve a workplace conflict: 

  • Stay current- It’s important to stay on the present issue when discussing frustrations and problems. Dragging up past grievances will confuse the situation.  It will also add new, unhelpful emotions to the situation and keeps people from staying objective. 
  • Avoid trigger words- Emotionally charged words, such as “always” and “never” only add to the brewing tension. Try to begin your sentences with “I,” instead of “you,” which sounds accusatory.  For example: “I became frustrated when you failed to meet your weekly deadline.” 
  • Don’t triangulate- Triangles occur when you go to a third party to complain about the person with whom you’re in conflict. Gossip defeats the purpose of resolution.  It’s counterproductive, will distort your ability to be objective, and will make the other person defensive.
  • Take a time out- You might need to take a step back to remain calm in the situation. Time outs are an excellent tool to keep emotions from taking over the discussion. 
  • Find a mediator- Some conversations are just too difficult or heated without an objective third party. Having an extra set of eyes and ears in a situation can be very beneficial.  Many companies have human resource representatives trained in conflict resolution. 

Conflicts generally result from a clash of perspectives, so choose to view this as an opportunity to see things differently and experience growth.  Avoiding conflicts will not equip you to handle them better in the future.  The more you strive toward workplace resolution, the more of a problem solver you can be in other areas of life.  The benefits of conflict resolution such as improved relationships, increased productivity, and less stress, far outweigh the costs of conflict. 


Want to talk to a counselor today about this? 

Call Amplified Life at 800-453-7733 and ask for your “Free 15 Minute Phone Consultation" with one of our licensed counselors. We’ll listen, answer questions you may have, and help you plan next steps.




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