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Tips for Resolving Conflict Between Coworkers

Mar 17, 2021
How To Resolve Conflict Between Coworkers
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No two employees are exactly the same. Each has unique views, goals, and working styles. While that’s generally a good thing and can foster a diverse perspective, these differences may result in arguments that can damage the relationship between team members.

If left to fester, these disagreements can escalate, affecting employee performance and even leading to the exodus of valuable workers. 

Whether minor misunderstandings, perceived harassment, or actual bullying, conflict in the workplace can create a toxic atmosphere that may affect the whole company — not just those involved. 

It may be human nature to avoid confrontation, but avoidance is not a step toward harmony in the workplace. Instead, the following insights and practical tips can help you resolve conflict with a coworker.

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1. Don’t ignore problems

If you have a problem with a coworker, act before it has a chance to get out of hand. The longer issues go unaddressed, the worse they tend to get. Remember, the effects of conflict at work are never limited to those directly involved. The sooner a matter is under control, the less widespread damage it can do.

2. Talk it out in a neutral meeting place

Arrange a meeting with your coworker. Each of you should be allowed to share their perspective of the situation without interruption. If the conflict is tense, bring in an HR manager or third-party mediator who is impartial and can guide the meeting. This mediator can keep proceedings civil and allow each party to air their grievances fairly.

The meeting should not be a loud discussion in full view of other employees or in the parking lot. Meet behind closed doors, or if need be, in a neutral space. Tempers will more than likely be running high, and any additional stresses could push a situation to boiling point. A neutral space can add a sense of calm, and a lack of prying eyes or eavesdroppers will make everyone feel more comfortable. 

3. Maintain personal safety

Conflict resolution may sometimes require engaging with mentally unstable people or those with a history of acting dangerously. The reality is that circumstances can change quickly. 

That’s true even for professionals who are well-accustomed to interacting with people in distress. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 21% of registered and student nurses polled reported being physically assaulted in one year. 

Using a lone worker safety solution is an effective way to keep workers safe if conflicts escalate when they are alone with a volatile person.


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Introduction to Conflict in the Workplace
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4. Let others fully explain themselves

When it comes to conflict resolution between two or more parties, listening plays a huge role. However, we typically overlook it. We usually try to voice our own opinion as much as possible and don’t let the other party explain themselves.

You need to let the other person explain their side of the story uninterrupted. It’s possible you'll find that you’ve misinterpreted their argument. After listening to them, you can better understand what they want.

5. Don’t get defensive

In any conflict, be it personal or professional, it’s easy to get defensive. If you start bantering by using a series of yes-or-no questions, you won’t see the other person’s perspective.

Rather than getting defensive, listen to the other person’s point of view. Try to understand where the other person is coming from. Try to change a “Yes, but,” answer into an “I understand, and,” statements.

Moreover, going on the offensive is also bad manners. It builds a negative situation where there will be no final solution. Never put blame on other people. Don’t create a space where people feel unsafe while expressing themselves.

6. Avoid pointing fingers

Moreover, going on the offensive is also bad manners. It builds a negative situation where there will be no final solution. Never put the blame on other people. Don’t create a space where people feel unsafe while expressing themselves.

7. Talk in the first person

Never talk in the second person and start using “you,” since it will come off as blaming. Conflict Is not about what the other party is doing wrong; it’s about what you think you are doing right. Make use of “I” statements instead of using “you” statements.

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8. Remain level-headed

No conflict is resolved with anger or tears. You need to remain calm and think rationally so that you can form a solution that will appease both parties. If you need to, vent your emotions before you meet. You may also want to read up on conflict resolution strategies and resolution management beforehand so that you feel more prepared.

9. Be willing to compromise

Show a willingness to collaborate or compromise. If the conflict is trivial, you can avoid them and make a compromise with the other party. In case of larger conflicts, you need to sort out things together. A willingness to compromise and collaborate is necessary.

10. Don’t talk bad about others

No matter what your differences are, never talk bad about people behind their backs. Never divulge the details of your conflict to other people. It’s not good manners to bad-mouth someone, and doing so won’t help in conflict resolution.

Take a lot of time to think about anything you say to people regarding your conflicts and issues. It’s better not to talk about the conflict until you reach an agreement that resolves the conflict.

11. Don’t take things personally

A conflict with a team member or a customer is not usually a conflict with you as a person. It’s generally a professional issue and not an attack on you. When you stop making the issue all about you, you’ll be able to see that you are separate from the conflict and can create an effective and objective solution.


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12. Focus on events and behavior

Another best practice for conflict resolution is to emphasize the associated events and behavior rather than the person. That way, offending parties don’t feel personally attacked during related conversations.

For example, maybe several office workers became frustrated about an individual who repeatedly cooks things that splash all over the break-room microwave. That person doesn’t clean the appliance after use, so their colleagues arrive to find a mess. 

In that example, the best approach is to say something such as, “Riley, several colleagues have mentioned that they repeatedly find the microwave unclean after you use it.” That statement leads with how someone acted instead of the person responsible. 

13. Identify multiple potential solutions

A solution that favors one party only could lead to resentment and future conflicts between those same people. Work toward potential solutions that are as positive as possible for all involved. Try to come up with more than one solution or ask the parties involved to provide 3 solutions that they feel would be fair.

14. Pay attention to non-verbal cues

There are people who don’t like to talk a lot. They don’t handle conflict well and don’t like to express their opinions. In this case, you need to pay attention to their non-verbal cues. A person’s body language can tell a lot about what a person is trying to say.

To resolve the conflict, you have to be emotionally aware and see what the gestures, posture, and facial expressions of the other people are saying of the conflict.

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Author Bio: 

This article was written by Isabelle Foster, a professional writing tutor from She worked in numerous online writing services as well as tabloids, alongside being an editor of a few co-produced books. Now, she offers top-notch tutoring on the subjects of conflict resolution, anger management, and life skills.



Frequently Asked Questions

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What’s the difference between healthy and unhealthy conflict?
As unpleasant as it is, conflict between coworkers is normal, and it’s not always unhealthy. In fact, some of the most productive teams are those in which the members feel comfortable and safe enough to express or address differences and disagreements. 
Organizational psychologist Michael Woodward, PhD, said that healthy conflicts between coworkers can result in greater trust, and that challenges to the status quo can be beneficial for a business. Conversely, unhealthy conflict is characterized by poor judgment — usually, because the conflicting parties made personal attacks and the situation became emotionally charged.
When should HR get involved?
Some conflicts between coworkers will resolve themselves without HR involvement, because the aggrieved parties come to their senses, apologize, and find a solution. Others might reach a resolution after those involved receive a few wise words from a trusted colleague or a manager.

But HR involvement in coworker conflict should happen when:
 - The conflict has gotten personal
 - Employees are losing respect for each other
 - Employee morale is worsening
 - Productivity and company success are being affected
 - Employees threaten to resign or walkout
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