Conflict Resolution at Work

Today we’re covering de-escalation in the workplace and what it takes to build a caring, supportive team.

With all of the workplace-related shootings in the news, we are much more apt to feel a bit of anxiety about the co-worker who is really steamed about something or the one who rants on the phone in the staff lounge. Conflict resolution at work is needed, and the skills to do so are ones anyone can develop.

In fact, the Department of Labor’s workplace violence program includes a very insightful statement:

IT IS UP TO EACH EMPLOYEE TO HELP MAKE THE DEPARTMENT A SAFE WORKPLACE FOR ALL OF US. The expectation is that each employee will treat all other employees, as well as customers or clients, with dignity and respect.

It's up to each employee to help make the department a safe place to work

The DOL clearly outlines the roles and expectations for both employees and Managers, and we appreciate their very first bullet point:

Employees (Including Managers and Supervisors) are responsible for: their own behavior by interacting responsibility with fellow employees, supervisors, and clients;


And while we’d probably all agree that this is a great start for conflict resolution at work, many may not be fully aware that our conversations (or lack of them) with others does much to determine the climate. Once someone is already in this place of feeling victimized by something or someone in the work setting, it is much more difficult to intervene, although conflict resolution skills can work with willing participants at any stage.  That said, wouldn’t it be far better to avoid getting to that point?


Remember the whole person when focusing on conflict resolution at work

Here are a few ways to keep from reaching the point of aggravation or pain so often:

Listen before you speak.

Everyone wants the space to be heard. Take the time to listen before you react. Let everyone have their say in a group meeting. As professionals working together to solve problems, everyone has a different strength and perspective. This means that often solutions come from the quiet corners. Draw out people, listen fully, let people know they’re heard, then make your decisions.

Commend the strengths.

It’s easy to get caught up in what’s wrong and continually address these problem areas. But don’t forget to commend the strengths of your boss and fellow coworkers. Encourage more positive behavior by noticing it and giving it attention. Just like shining sunshine on a watermelon plant, praising good behavior will encourage growth of the same.

Remember the whole person.

In business, we often focus on efficient outcomes. We build processes and practices that ensure we’re making the most of our time and delivering a quality product or service in the most profitable way possible. As such, it can be difficult to remember the whole person through the process. The man in accounting who crunches the budget down, the woman in advertising who needs you to be more concise but stay brilliant and funny… they have life outside of work just like you. And pressures and challenges that create bumps in the road and interests and hobbies that keep them happy and fulfilled. Take time to get to know what’s going on in their lives. Remember that to work smoothly as a team, we need to care about one another as people, not just fulfillers of tasks. A two-minute conversation about a picture next to their computer can go a long way to start building better synergy as a team and make everyone feel valued as people.

Practice empathy.

It’s easy to make a snap judgment and let everyone else in the office know that a particular coworker is in a bad mood. There are many reasons someone may have a chip on his shoulder. Whatever the reason, know we all have bad days. Practice empathy. Instead of spreading the word that so-and-so is grumpy, find out if there’s anything you can do to help. Perhaps she had a flat tire this morning or he got some discouraging news about a family member. Choose to encourage in these moments. When you practice empathy, people are more likely to return the favor. Your good-heartedness might just set the stage for a more caring office culture!

conflict resolution at work

Address problems quickly. (Don’t avoid them!)

Tensions happen in the workplace, which is why skills for conflict resolution at work are so necessary. And it’s easy to duck down into the cubicle when the person with whom you have friction walks by. Instead of letting things fester, offer to talk things out. If needed, get HR in the room with you, but approach things openly, listen carefully, and respond thoughtfully to the issues between you. Often these tensions are simply the result of a misunderstanding, and when they are talked out these tensions can resolve quite smoothly.

Ask questions.

When there’s conflict that needs to be resolved, don’t forget to take a step back and ask, “What brought us to this point?” Instead of getting caught up in the problem right in front of us, remember that it took quite a few steps to get to this point. Conflict resolution at work means seeking to understand the bigger picture that led to the outburst, misstep, or miscalculation. You may uncover an even better solution as a result of the gaffe.


When addressing conflict resolution at work practice empathyNo matter the type of work environment, there’s always room for better relationships.

Conflict resolution at work involves coworkers, your boss, and sometimes your clients. The more cooperative and caring the team, the greater chance there is to create something great together.  When used in the workplace, 5 Radical Minutes will foster:

  • Increased collaboration
  • Improved productivity
  • Increased motivation
  • Improved communication
  • Increased problem-solving skills
  • Improved morale
  • Engaged employees
  • Mitigated conflict
  • Increased profitability
  • Personal responsibility for office climate

Let us know how these tips work as you deal with conflict resolution at work. With some time and attention, any workplace can become a better, more supportive environment for everyone.