top of page

Handling workplace conflicts

Updated: Aug 11, 2022

No one likes conflicts, let alone one at a workplace. It is disruptive, demoralizing and causes unnecessary dramas between people. The worst kinds are the ones that involve bosses and employees, as they can adversely affect your performance appraisals. Alas, conflicts are a part of life, and learning how to resolve them is critical to navigating personal and professional lives. Here are several ways for you to do that.

Talk it out

It goes without saying that the easiest way to resolve any conflicts is to have a face-to-face conversation with your coworker. While it is daunting to build up the courage to speak to them after a fight, the direct approach is undeniably the best approach to addressing the ongoing tension. Set a time where the both of you can calmly sit down and broach the topic at hand, and lay it all out. If you’re anxious about the thought of having a serious conversation, consider discussing things over a meal or an informal meeting in a private setting. The best kinds of conversation are the ones that are unscripted and genuine. The more you try to stick to a script, the harder it is for you to be present and to respond to the recipient’s words, which lends the impression that you are either insincere or inattentive. As always, more “I” and less “You” statements are always helpful to avoid giving the impression that you are attempting to shift the blame to the other party.

Don’t take it personally

Many conflicts usually stem from misunderstandings, and misunderstandings are simply actions that have been taken out of their context and misconstrued to be offensive, even when they’re not! A good example of this is when someone attempts to give us honest, constructive feedback at work, and we misinterpret this as an attempt to undermine us. Or when a coworker is stressed about work one day, and they are not being their usual selves, and yet we attribute this to our behavior. Sometimes, people may say things that they do not mean to. Other times, they may have unintentionally lashed out due to the ongoing stressors in their lives i.e. personal or work problems. Most times, it is simply because not everyone has a way with self-expression and are unable to express themselves properly. . It’s important to remember that our coworkers are humans, and just like everyone else, they experience ups and downs in their lives too.

Kindness and empathy are particularly helpful in allowing us to see things from a different perspective. After all, everyone is fighting their own battles, and sometimes they need to be cared for as well. Not everything is inherently personal or an insult. And if you’re uncomfortable with a colleague’s actions at work, remember to speak up and clarify. In fact, take time to check in on them, for your kind attempts may be met with a positive response. Remember, one less assumption is one less misunderstanding to be dealt with.

Never be a wound collector

A wound collector, or someone who consciously keeps count of the past grievances, transgressions, injustice or hurt that people have inflicted upon them with the purpose of exacting vengeance. While it is natural to feel upset when someone has hurt or wronged us, harboring past grievances and getting even at others only serves to fester the wounds further. The tit for tat gets us nowhere and constantly puts us back in a never ending cycle of conflict and pain, which is the last thing that we hope to achieve in conflicts. When discussing or talking things out with your coworkers, it’s important to focus on the matter at hand, and not their personalities or their past actions. Be objective, and learn to assess the situation in the grander scheme of things. If the urge to discuss the past does overwhelm you, set another time to talk to the involved party about it, but never attempt to muddle the situation further by bringing up the past as it only leads to further confusion. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Own up your mistakes

Acknowledgement goes both ways and it feels great when all parties admit their faults towards each other. Once everyone has acknowledged their wrongdoing, take a step further and strategize ways to avoid similar future misunderstandings or conflicts. Doing so shows that both parties are sincere about working things out, and demonstrates their commitment to ensuring peace and good vibes at work. Lastly, it also empowers all parties with the knowledge of how to handle each other, which goes a long way in preventing conflicts from arising.

Laugh it off

As the saying goes, humor is the best medicine for conflict. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, it never hurts to laugh things off and end things on a hearty note. And if you can’t laugh things off, try ending things with a friendly smile and a firm handshake instead. Humor allows people to drop their guard and put a light-hearted spin on the issue. It also gives all parties a chance to make up and to deepen the bonds between them, essentially bringing everyone closer after a feud. Most importantly, it is a reminder that everyone is human, and that to err is human.

The silver lining...

Conflict isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it paves way for growth. Likewise, it allows the involved parties to clear the misunderstanding in the air and deepen the bond between all involved parties. This is what we call catharsis, or the act of releasing pent up emotions. Rather keeping your frustrations bottled up, sometimes it's better to let it out and talk about it. After all, what is meant to show up WILL show up. So why not learn to talk it out instead, and find the silver lining in between?

bottom of page