Tips for Managing Disagreement and Conflict in the Workplace


Samantha was furious. While giving a presentation at a meeting, Brad, a new colleague in his department, showed off slides that were clearly based on ideas for the project that she had shared with him in private … and did so without acknowledgment.

Samantha furiously confronted Brad in his office after the meeting. He became defensive and denied the allegations, so they got nowhere.


A study by the American Management Association (AMA) found that managers spend at least 24% of their day managing conflict. If you ask a manager, they will still feel the figure is under-reported. The bigger problem here is not just the time being spent. The bigger problem is that there is no guarantee that that time will be spent productively or will result in the conflict getting resolved.

Unhealthy workplace conflict resolution techniques, toxic company culture, and managers who have no practice in empathy cause many people to avoid conflict as if it were a plague. Managers are assigned an emotional task, to unravel negative dynamics and implement improved processes and a positive culture.

Conflicts at work happen every day and in every corner of the world. While we can take steps to avoid the causes of these conflicts, their emergence still is inevitable. It is a manager’s responsibility to grab the bull by the horns, but it is easier said than done. Luckily, with the right set of tools, they can tackle conflict without a disrupting the emotional balance of the team, create a safe space, and improve lines of communication. This ensures that when the conflict inevitably arises, their teams are prepared and versed in conflict resolution. Instead of engaging themselves in non-productive arguments, they start looking for a solution immediately. Here are some versatile workplace dispute resolution techniques (examples you can use when wondering how to deal with conflicts).

Don’t Do It Alone

Employees often make matters worse when they try to resolve workplace disputes on their own. Since your perceptions are based on your interests, it is likely to be difficult for you to find solutions that are fair to both parties. Furthermore, people often turn engagement into conflict, leading to more and more hostility.

If you experience a conflict at work that is related to how something at work should be done, you can engage the whole team and turn it into a discussion/brainstorming session. This will not only allow for better conflict resolution but will also result in new ideas that might prove to be helpful.

However, if you are resolving a conflict that is on a more personal level, it is better not to involve anyone else except maybe someone from the HR.

Listen Actively

In the midst of a heated conflict, your first instinct is to defend yourself and defend your point of view while attacking the other party. This belligerent mindset will get you nowhere.

When you negotiate conflict with other colleagues at work, create a productive atmosphere by letting the person you are arguing with speak first. Samantha, for example, could give Brad all the time he needs to explain what happened at the meeting and resist the urge to interrupt him. You might wonder if you understand what Brad said until you feel like you fully understand her point of view.

When it is time to explain your perspective on the conflict, take ownership of the same ability to express your point of view without interruption. Concentrate on explaining how you see the situation and present evidence if possible.

Do not Leave Emotions Out of The Equation

It can also be important to talk about the emotions you have felt when dealing with conflict at work. Expressing the deep emotions that a conflict can engender can not only be cathartic but could also serve to make the other party see you as a flexible human being and not as the “enemy”.

You can help the other party talk about their feelings about the conflict, too. For example, Samantha could explain that she was not only upset but also betrayed and hurt because she believed that Brad stole her ideas.

For his part, Brad could reveal that he admires Samantha’s success and that he was trying to emulate her style, but that he felt humiliated when she accused him of stealing the idea from her. When discussing their emotions while handling conflict, the disputants tend to understand each other better.

Take Advantage of The Differences

A good manager, in this case, would recommend that Samantha and Brad work together on Samantha’s initial ideas and try to collaborate to promote them. Then, in a follow-up meeting, the manager could give Samantha the due credit, and she could tacitly back Brad by teaming up with him for the project.

When dealing with workplace conflict, making the most of differences can help employees stop arguing and focus on negotiating to resolve a problem in a way that benefits both of them.

Do not Look for a Person to Blame: Search for the Cause

Good managers know very well that people make mistakes. Focusing on an individual’s mistake is possible without blaming it, and you can do it by looking at the point in the process where this mistake was made. Did this person have the correct information to do their job correctly? Did the factors in the process act as they should? Was there some kind of loss of context when the information changed hands?

Focusing on the process rather than getting rid of someone helps prevent future mistakes and allows you to see your team backing you up when things go wrong. After all, everyone makes mistakes, even the managers.


Summing it up

When determining how you will handle workplace conflict, it is important to remember that the sooner you switch from a bossy attitude to a problem-solving approach, the more likely you are to resolve the dispute amicably.

By bringing proven negotiating techniques to the table, such as active listening, emotional intelligence skills, and value creation, you could even make the conflict a productive working relationship.


Some courses that may help you develop your skills in this area include.

Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence, Improving Mindfulness, Developing Creativity, Improving Self Awareness, and Work-Life Balance

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