Achieving Success through Conflict Management in the Workplace

As much as we might like to avoid it, conflict in the workplace is inevitable. With things like salary, promotions, and livelihoods at stake, passions can run high and disagreements are sure to follow.

For this reason, it’s not always possible for even the most humble of team members to avoid conflict; instead, knowing how to implement strategies of conflict management can sometimes be the most useful thing. A lot of the following is common sense but some greater insight can be learned through conflict resolution courses and can be supported by online resources, such as eTextbooks, and additional research. If you find yourself in a moment of conflict, consider asking yourself one of these questions:

Is It Worth It?
If you find yourself about to tell your coworker what you REALLY think of his idea, take a moment to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” It’s important to first make that distinction.

Is his idea something that will impact your work for a long time or is it just something annoying to you in this moment? If his idea will negatively impact your ability to produce high-quality work, then, yes, it is worth saying something. But if his suggestion isn’t something that will truly prevent you from achieving success, it’s best to politely refrain from voicing your objections or concerns.

Choose Your Words Carefully
Can I rephrase that? In instances where you just have to say something, you should at least try to phrase your grievance in an agreeable way. Instead of being accusatory, find a way to state your case that’s focused on your needs.

For example, instead of telling your coworker that her habit of turning in late reports is irresponsible and unprofessional, explain to her how her late work affects your ability to complete the final report. Unlike the first approach, the latter one should help to start a conversation instead of a defensive argument.

Problems Not Personalities
What’s the problem? While in a moment of conflict, it can be so simple to see badness in the other person instead of in the situation. If you find yourself thinking bad thoughts about the other person, then take a brief pause and shift your thoughts to the problem at hand.

Remembering to ask yourself, “What’s the problem?” can help you to focus more on the situation and less on the individual. This is helpful because you can fix a problem, but you can’t fix a person. Doing this will more likely lead to a solution and an end to the conflict.

Words Matter
What did you say? When you see a coworker or boss about to share their frustrations with you, it can be tempting to get defensive and to start planning your own counterattack. But to diffuse the situation, take a deep breath and just listen.

Don’t interrupt the person; hear what he/she has to say. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. Often, conflict arises when a person doesn’t feel heard or valued. Simply taking the time to listen can sometimes be the most effective response. And if the listening tactic doesn’t work, then at the very least, you should now have an understanding of the other person’s complaint in order to articulate an appropriate response.

According to Mike Wyatt’s article on, the worst thing a person can do is ignore conflict in the workplace. At its worst, unresolved conflict can decrease productivity, block the willingness to cooperate, and even weaken loyalty to the company.

Simply asking yourself some of these questions can be a great way to move forward and achieve success. 

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