A workplace conflict is never a pleasant thing to deal with, but it is unfortunately something that may arise throughout your career. Whether you are involved directly, or the issue is between two of your direct reports, it is important that you know how to dissolve a problem when it presents itself.

This is a situation which should be handled efficiently and with tact and respect. Though every situation is different, here are the main steps you’ll need to take in order to better handle workplace conflict.

Using Emotional Intelligence

The first step, especially If you are directly involved, is to control your own emotions regarding the situation. This requires emotional intelligence; you’ll need to be able to identify what you are feeling in the scenario and respond appropriately. 

If you are feeling anger, address it and calm yourself in whatever way works for you. If your instinct is to immediately side with one party in the conflict, assess and dismiss those feelings as appropriate. This does not mean disregarding your emotions or instincts, but not allowing them to control your actions.

Once you have your own emotions in check, it is time to address the other party or parties.

Employing Empathy

This step is key for anyone dealing with a workplace conflict, but especially for a manager. Whether you are resolving an issue between members of your team or one of your own, it is extremely helpful to see the situation from other points of view.

Assess where frustration and conflict are coming from. What is the intention of every person involved? Is that even apparent, or implied? Are there mitigating circumstances, like pressures outside of work?

Seeing things from another perspective will help everyone involved to resolve this conflict in a calm, understanding way. This sets the stage for compromise and may help to prevent a similar workplace conflict arising again.

Having a Productive Conversation

This is perhaps the most difficult part of the process, as it can become a negative interaction quickly if the first two steps are not followed be everyone involved in the conflict. The key here is for the conversation to remain civil, and not devolve into a confrontation.

If necessary, involve a mediator in this conversation. If you are the manager, you may serve in this role. A mediator will help both parties to keep emotions in check and ensure that there is no hostility as you work toward a solution. 

Bear in mind that not everyone involved may realize there is even a workplace conflict to be resolved, so approaching this conversation with understanding and patience will help everyone to reach a solution. It may take more that one meeting, but ensure that some steps are laid out to improve the situation before the discussion ends.

Resolving a Workplace Conflict Remotely

As many people are working remotely, and as it becomes more normalized, some aspects of this process will change. For example, being more disconnected may lead to a lack of understanding and communication between coworkers, which could breed resentment and lead to a workplace conflict.

Because those involved cannot walk over to someone else’s desk for a conversation, a more proactive approach will be needed to solve the problem. Virtual meetings will have to be scheduled, and messages or emails will be exchanged. This presents a problem, as it is difficult to convey tone in a written message. So, ensure that if you are sending messages to set up a conversation, you are paying extra attention to the words you’re using and their tone.

A benefit to working remotely is that you have a space to vent some of your frustrations without confronting the other party with them. This can help you approach the issue in a more calm, controlled manner when you choose to do so. Be careful of this, however, if you tend to be easily wound up and struggle to rein your feelings in afterwards. 

Bear in mind that some situations may demand involvement from the HR department, depending on the severity of the workplace conflict. Do not be afraid to ask for this support if needed.

For more career and management insights, please browse our advice section.

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