Managing Conflict at Work

In a healthy workplace, there can be vigorous discussions and strongly-held differing points of view but differences are talked through and resolved. People are consulted and their views are taken into account. Communication is open and clear and if a conflict arises, there are ways to resolve it. Differences of opinion and approach are normal but if they are not managed they can have a negative impact on employees and the organisation’s well-being.

Conflict can arise when:

  • People are under stress at work or at home
  • When there are changes taking place in the organisation or the team
  • When external and internal pressures are impacting on individuals and the team
  • When poor communication has led to misunderstandings

When conflict is not resolved:

  • Individuals are distressed and their mental and physical well-being can be affected
  • There can be increased absenteeism
  • Working relationships can be broken and team morale lowered
  • The conflict can create factions and affect productivity
  • The organisation’s reputation can be affected and there can be difficulties with recruitment and retention.

If workplace conflict, either with a supervisor or a colleague, has begun to affect you there are things you can do:

  • Try to have a conversation with the other person and really listen to what they are saying.
  • You may both have been making assumptions and a good discussion might allow you to understand the situation better.
  • Try to acknowledge and respect the other party’s right to have a different point of view.
  • Try to see the conflict from a neutral point of view. Think about the other perspective.
  • Think about whether it is helpful to blame or argue about being right.
  • Think about what the conflict is doing to you, and possibly to your family and colleagues.
  • Consider feelings – how much do your feelings and the other person’s feeling about the issue have to do with the conflict?
  • Focus on the problem, not the person.
  • Think about what you and the other person want. If you follow this through to a win/lose outcome, what do you stand to lose? Do you have any common ground? Is there any room for compromise?
  • Would it be helpful to involve a neutral person to help you work through the issues?
  • Make sure you get personal support during this difficult time by talking to someone you trust and using the resources in your workplace
  • Look after your health by exercising, eating well and enjoying recreational activities
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