How to Resolve Workplace Conflict Like a Boss

Workplace Conflict, problems at work, arguing at work, don't like coworkers, don't like workmates

by Karen Doniere

Let’s face it: as much as we try to be a team player and work toward our team’s success, conflicts will arise. Those conflicts may be the result of personality clashes, differences of opinion, and more. What can you and I do to make certain that we maintain a high level of professionalism while making sure that we’re respected? Here are four steps to take to help you quickly resolve workplace conflict like a boss.

1). Define the Problem
Ask yourself these questions: what is the actual problem? Are there cultural or generational differences involved? Or, is it simply an issue of miscommunication or general dislike? Be honest with yourself in order to determine if you have directly or indirectly contributed to the problem. Then, be mature enough to accept responsibility for your contribution if any, and apologize. Apologies can be given via email, but I think they’re more personal when given in person or via telephone.

What if the other person involved in the conflict refuses to acknowledge any actions that led up to the disagreement? It doesn’t matter what they say or do from this point forward, because your intention is to take the high and gracious road to restore a measure of peace to your work environment, also known as your home away from home.

What if the issue is that they just don’t like you, and the feeling is mutual? Despite how they may feel about you or vice versa, you both are at work to perform a job that you were hired to do. And, although you’re not required to be best friends with your colleagues, you should want to give them the same respect you demand. Additionally, you want to maintain a stellar workplace reputation as a leader and team player so you’ll be in a better position to manage more exciting projects, and possibly secure a raise in the future.

2). Brainstorm Reasonable Solutions
Now that you’ve identified the problem and its initial cause, start brainstorming to think of reasonable solutions. What needs to happen? And, who do you need to converse with to make it happen? According to the American Time Use survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employed persons worked an average of 7.8 hours on the days they worked.” And, a similar 2013 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that “U.S. workers ages 25 to 54, who lived with children under 18 spent 8.7 hours working each day.” Therefore, we spend more of our awake hours at work with our colleagues, than with our family and friends. This is why it’s important to quickly resolve any new or lingering issues so everyone can move on, and return to their work projects.

3). Compromise and Resolve
After you’ve thought about practical solutions to the conflict, reach out to your immediate supervisor to make him or her aware of what you’d like to happen, and your role in that scenario, and schedule a meeting with everyone involved. Additionally, set one or two goals for the meeting during your preparation to ensure that you stay focused. Think about your intention and the outcome that will make you happy.

Please understand that I’m not saying to go into this meeting with the goal of being disrespected, slandered, or spoken to in a condescending tone. But, I am saying to be very specific about the desired outcome, and what your next actions will be. If you approach the meeting as an opportunity to listen, be heard, and compromise, it will be a win-win situation for everyone.

Ask yourself what am I willing to compromise on? Maybe you could switch team meetings to mid-week instead of having them on Friday mornings. Or, maybe you could implement a monthly potluck lunch to promote a team spirit and get to know your colleagues better. Be willing to give in order to get back to your projects and your peace of mind.

4). Agree to Disagree
Dr. Beverly Flaxington stated in a Psychology Today article entitled “The Cost of Conflict in the Workplace,” that “we waste a lot of time ruminating over people who aren’t really doing anything to us; we just don’t like them. Don’t expend energy unless it matters.” Sometimes, no matter how much thought, preparation, and compromise occurs, the conflict may not get resolved in one session, or at all, and tensions may further escalate. In this situation, I like to listen, speak my truth, agree to disagree, and keep it moving. I refuse to waste valuable time, energy, and mental space trying to appease others. But, I’m willing to yield and make concessions when possible. I’m also willing to treat anyone I’ve had a disagreement with cordially and respectfully because it will ultimately make my work life more pleasant.

The Silver Lining
Although workplace conflict isn’t nice for most, it becomes even more awkward when it’s left unresolved. I think brainstorming, effective communication, and a willingness to compromise are the most important keys to finding a reasonable resolution. Because we spend most of our awake hours at work, the culture should be one that promotes individuality, while encouraging a collaborative spirit that allows everyone to feel comfortable sharing their opinions and talents. Let’s pledge to do our part to contribute to that amazing atmosphere by quickly resolving conflict so that we can enjoy our work lives even more.

References Used:
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2015). American time use survey summary.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2013). American time use survey.
Flaxington, B. (2012). The cost of conflict in the workplace. Psychology Today.


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2 Replies to “How to Resolve Workplace Conflict Like a Boss”

  1. Beverley @ BrilliantFamilyDog

    Some interesting points here!

    When people just don’t like you it can be hard to pinpoint how you can affect the problem. I have found it helpful to say, “I can see you’re upset/angry/frustrated: what would you like me to do?”

    This forces them to fix on a concrete thing – not just a general feeling of resentment.

    1. Karen

      Hi Beverley,

      What a great point! Ironically, I’ve had to do this before, and just ask what can I/we do to make it right. Thanks for sharing.


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