How to Manage Conflict at Work

Natalie Andersen

You may think that you have the world’s greatest colleagues, but sooner or later you’ll have a conflict. Unfortunately, conflicts and misunderstanding happen all the time, so managing them in a proper way to minimize their effect on your productivity is critical to achieve career goals.

And the effect can be quite significant. According to Inc., for example, workplace conflicts have office workers dealing with them almost three hours every week and result in $359 billion in losses annually.

The best way to deal with conflict or disagreement in the office is to simply talk about it and find a solution together. Yes, communication is a powerful tool against conflicts and their adverse effects, but one has to know how to handle those difficult conversations and find a way out of a complex situation while minimizing their impact on productivity and work environment.

In this article, you’re going to learn how to do just that. Below, you’ll find six great tips on dealing with difficult conversations in the workplace and how you can become an effective conflict manager.

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Six Tips to Resolve Conflict at Work

1. Know the Causes of Conflict/Tension and Avoid Them

There are a number of common causes of conflicts and disagreement, including stress, poor communication, unclear or conflicting expectations, and personal issues.

Let’s discuss each of them.


A lot of studies have shown that stress is one of the major factors affecting people on the job, and, unfortunately, it’s also a common cause of conflict and tension. To minimize the impact of stress on your professional life, you need to identify what’s causing you to be stressed out.

According to Statista, there are four main reasons for stress at work among employees in North America, and they include the following: workload, people issues, juggling work and personal life, and lack of job security.

Source: Statista

Identifying the source of stress will be the first step to reducing its effect on your life because you can start working on eliminating that source.

Poor Communication

In many cases, the reason for having an argument with a colleague is the lack of communication, therefore coordination between them. So, the persons involved in the argument may not even be the ones to blame, because a company’s culture may be poorly suited to ensure sufficient communication.

“To avoid having conflicts because of this reason, always try to communicate with your colleagues and make sure that you understand what they need from you and what you need from them,” recommends James Daily, Head of the content department at FlashEssay.

Unclear or Conflicting Expectations

Once again, a lack of communication is to blame here. For example, your boss may assign a task for you to complete but don’t provide you with enough details. In this case, it’s quite possible that you won’t be able to deliver that meet his or her expectations.

Personal Issues

They include such problems as personal crisis and family problems and can also impact your relationship with colleagues at the office. If you’re having issues with something outside of the workplace, chances are that you could be stressed out, irritated, sad, or frustrated. Clearly, you won’t be ready to perform as well as you could, and conflicts can happen.

This Forbes article recommends the following to minimize the impact of personal problems:

  • Talk with your boss and share what’s bothering you. They might be able to support you.
  • Don’t overshare. Avoid sharing too many details because it can give people a wrong impression of your capabilities.
  • Get support from family, friends, and spiritual leaders
  • Take time off to focus on other things and forget about your problems for a while.

2. Don’t Avoid the Conversation

Many people make a critical mistake by avoiding the conversation about the conflict or a problem because they think that the issue will go away. Well, time may be a great healer, but not in this case: you cannot escape the problem by simply choosing to ignore it.

“A better way is to address the issue before it has the opportunity to escalate and become an even more serious problem,” says Sylvia Giltner, an HR specialist from ResumesCentre. “In other words, the sooner you decide to act, the better chance you’ll have to resolve it.”

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3. Choose a Private Setting

Some people just love to make a scene and let everybody know that their feelings were hurt. However, this is a sure-fire way to escalate the problem rather than solve it because you’re involving everyone in the office by letting them know what the conflict is all about.

Remember: just because you’ve had a disagreement or a conflict with someone, this doesn’t give you any right to let the entire workforce know about it.

Remember: just because you’ve had a disagreement or a conflict with someone, this doesn’t give you any right to let the entire workforce know about it. Choose a private setting even if disagreement began in a public place and try to resolve it professionally, e.g. in a communicative and healthy way.

4. Preparation is Critical

Conflict resolution is something that requires a little bit of preparation. For example, do you know everything that you’re going to say to the colleague you’ve just had a disagreement with? If you come unprepared, chances are that he or she will handle the situation better than you.

However, if you prepare in advance for that difficult conversation and define the most important things that you want to say about the disagreement, you’ll have a great chance to get the desired result.

Here’s a checklist for you to prepare for that difficult conversation. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • What might my opponent be thinking about the whole situation?
  • What might be his or her goal?
  • How have I and my opponent contributed to the problem?
  • What counterarguments can I have right now?
  • Have your best alternative to an agreement ready. Simply explained, this alternative is the minimum that you’re willing to get out of the conversation. If your opponent doesn’t agree to your alternative, then feel free to walk away with it.

5. Avoid Being Accusatory

The temptation to jump to conclusions regarding who is the one to blame will be quite strong but resist it. Being accusatory would be a huge mistake because it shows that you’re motivated by bad intentions rather than a desire to find a good solution.

For example, instead of directly accusing your opponent, try saying the following, recommends Pat Fredshaw, the chief content editor from EssaySupply:

I’m afraid we have different perceptions of ______. I’d like to hear how you understand this situation and what you think would be an appropriate solution.

I want to see whether we can reach a better understanding of the current situation. Please, let me know how you feel and then I’ll share my perspective.

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6. Be Willing to Listen and Allow the Other to Vent

This can be the hardest because your opponent may say things that you think are unfair or wrong. However, you should be willing to listen because you need to hear their perspective because you can learn something important and create a good opening for your own reply.

Here’s how to go about it:

Step 1: listen to what your opponent has to say.

Step 2: summarize what they said to make sure that you understanding everything correctly

Step 3: emphasize with them by saying that you understand some of the reasons why they did so; this creates a willingness for your opponent to hear your view

Step 4: say what you have to say.


Conflict in the workplace is inevitable, so you might as well learn how to deal with it properly. Hope this article answered your questions such as “How to handle a difficult conversation in the workplace?” Remember: the best way to resolve a conflict or an agreement is to address it as soon as possible, but if you couldn’t do so, feel free to use the above tips.

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