Confrontation is Key to Dealing with Workplace Conflict

By Chelsea Babin

Usually, the most advice you’ll receive about workplace conflict is to avoid it at all costs. While this nugget of wisdom still holds true sometimes conflicts will arise. Instead of letting them fester or boil over into your productivity, confront it, head on!

1)   Acknowledge it exists: Things just don’t feel the same. Easy conversations with a certain coworker have turned tense and awkward. Your work is getting ignored or even passed over in a way it wasn’t before. Whatever the source of the conflict, it’s time to acknowledge its existence. If you insist on ignoring it’s there, the conflict could grow over time. Nip it in the bud!

2)   Clear, calm conversation: Start by having a cool and collected conversation with coworkers involved in the conflict. Address what you feel is the source of the conflict, whether it was you misplacing an important document of theirs or you getting the lead on a project they wanted more control in, present the conflict in a non-accusatory manner. If you’re unsure of where the tension is stemming from, simply express that you feel uncomfortable and you’re not sure what’s wrong. Ask for their side. Listen patiently and steer the conversation away from argument wherever possible. Often times these simple conversations can solve conflicts simply and efficiently.

3)   Bring in the boss: If the conversation didn’t go well or seem to resolve the issue, it’s time to bring your boss in on the issue. Present the conflict to your boss, accept partial responsibility and ask what their recommendation is for resolving your problem. Good managers will have sage advice for conflict resolution that’s specific to your workplace needs. If they don’t they can, at the very least, separate you as much as possible from tension in the workplace.

4)   Let it go: Don’t hold onto a grudge match at work. Is it really worth losing your job? Most likely the answer is no. Take the high road and get over it. While your coworkers involved in the conflict may let bitterness affect their productivity, you’ll stay above the fray and let your work speak for itself.

5)   If it persists, evaluate culture: If you find yourself at the center of workplace conflicts, evaluate yourself. If you find yourself involved in conflicts that don’t seem to dissipate despite taking the steps above, evaluate the company culture. These conflicts may stem from your company stuffing a square peg in a round hole. Whether that square peg is you or the coworkers who are making you feel uncomfortable, ask yourself if it’s worth dealing with for 40 hours every week. If it isn’t, take the time to evaluate your values to make sure you aren’t sacrificing them for the sake of having a job.

Avoid conflict at all costs but, when it pops up, confront it head on. Using a less abrasive, more communicative approach, workplace conflict doesn’t have to turn into a big, dramatic issue that will end up reflecting poorly on you. Try these resolutions and, if they don’t work out, make company culture the focus of your next job search.