Boss Lady

Key tips to deal with workplace conflict


When it comes to the workplace, conflict is inevitable. Understanding how to manage workplace conflict, however, can mean the difference between harboring resentments against your colleagues and communicating in an authentic way that helps you build stronger relationships with them.

Conflict management and resolution is a valuable skill—one that many companies and organisations these days are seeking in professionals. By mastering the skill, you’ll not only set yourself in a league of your own but you’ll be able to interact with others heretofore with grace, elegance, and diplomacy.


What to do if you’re on the receiving end of bad workplace behaviour

Schedule a meeting with the individual in question where you can discuss the behaviour without interruption. Remain calm yet assertive. This isn’t an attack. It’s an open dialogue meant to lead to a resolution.

  • Outline the behaviour: “I often feel that you shut me down when I am speaking.”
  • Be specific: “It happened at the team meeting on Monday, when I was giving my project update and you spoke over me a number of times.”
  • Explain how it impacts you: “When this happens, I find it frustrating as it feels as if you place no value on my contributions.”
  • State your preferred outcome: “It would add more value for me if in team meetings you could listen to my ideas and save your comments and questions until the end.”
  • Ask them to agree to behave differently: “I would appreciate it if you could agree to this change.”


What to do if you’re suddenly confronted by a colleague who is angry and making a point in public

Keep your own behaviour constructive. Ask them politely to stop the discussion and book a meeting to discuss. This will give them time to calm down and you time to prepare. (If the behaviour was extreme and you felt threatened, report it immediately to your manager and/or HR.)

Don’t be afraid to ask for a third party to mediate if you feel that you won’t be able to have a calm and constructive discussion.

In the meeting, listen with an open mind. Stay calm, don’t get either defensive or aggressive. Walk your colleague through these steps:

  • What is the issue?
  • Can you give me an example, or specifics?
  • What is the impact?
  • What would you like to happen instead? What would be a good outcome?
  • How can we resolve this? What specifically can we both do?
  • And finally: What have we agreed to do?

By keeping your own behaviour as positive as possible, you will be working to a resolution as opposed to fueling workplace conflict. Others will begin to take notice, be it fellow colleagues who wish to emulate your behaviour (and thus contribute to a more stress-free workplace) or executive members who see the value you bring and the grace with which you conduct yourself. Wherever it leads, you’ll acquire a powerful skill that will put out fires quickly and with ease and help you excel as a professional.

About Rosalind Cardinal

Rosalind Cardinal, known as ‘The Leadership Alchemist', is the Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, a consulting practice in the field of Organisational Development and Human Resources. She has coached clients at Executive and Senior Levels in government agencies, private enterprises, and the community sector and is a sought-after speaker and expert at conferences and events. Visit Shaping Change to learn new strategies and game-changing ideas toward becoming a better leader and to download Ros’ free e-book on leadership.

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