Conflict at work

Keep in mind that you want to reach a solution to avoid the same thing happening again, and that you can be assertive without being aggressive. In some cases, when the conflict is out of hand and affecting your work, you might consider speaking to someone in your HR department. Your company may have its own standardised processes for how to adopt conflict resolution strategies. They may state that meditation is required from the start, in which case a neutral third party can help to facilitate the process.

Prepare for the discussion in advance

Before speaking to the other person, make a list of the points you want to discuss. Without preparing for the conversation and carefully planning what you want to say, you could more easily lose control of the situation and rise to emotional tension. Remember that you want to have a conversation, not a confrontation, so it benefits everyone to formalise proceedings, loosely structuring the meeting and having relevant questions and notes ready.

It also makes it fair that you let the other person know any specific areas of discussion you’re looking to cover, so that they can make their own notes too. Aligning the themes of the meeting helps you to start working on a common goal before you get there, which is highly conducive to bridging the divide. You can even agree to set a mutual intention, such as promising you’ll always hear the other person out, even if you disagree with what they say.

Never assume someone has done or said something out of spite; they might have a perfectly valid reason for their actions, which is why it’s important to clarify the circumstances. Working on your empathy around the situation ahead of time will help you to see things from the other person’s view, giving you the best chance of a positive outcome.

Communicate effectively

Conflict resolution techniques need to be grounded in open and honest communication. Encourage anyone involved to articulate their emotions without fear of retaliation or judgment, by taking a compassionate attitude and showing that you respect their perspective. Choose a safe and quiet environment where you won’t be disrupted, so that people can comfortably express their concerns.

Start by confirming how the conflict started and what you are both unhappy about, to help you get on the same page and understand everyone’s motivations and needs. Practice active listening by giving your full attention to the person speaking. Listen to understand their viewpoint, rather than waiting to talk and formulating your response. Repeat or paraphrase their statements each time they’re finished talking, to ensure accurate understanding and show that you value their input. Whatever you do, refrain from any personal attacks or disrespectful behaviour.

Don’t be tempted to think you have to prove the other person wrong; instead, prioritise reaching a compromise. Effective conflict resolution strategies negotiate everyone’s needs and interests. Through a process of give and take, you can work towards a solution that satisfies both sides.

Follow up appropriately

After the meeting, reach out to the other person to confirm that the conflict has been resolved. If it has, ensure that the resolution is firmly in place and will be adequately sustainable. Seek feedback to identify areas for improvement and write down your learnings from the conflict, to avoid similar issues in the future. You can even take clear preventative measures by coming up with a strategy to reduce the chances of a repeated occurrence.

If further investigation is required or you feel the need to involve another party in proceedings, you can set a date for a follow-up meeting. In the meantime, you can try agreeing on actions you’ll both take to move things forward, as you get closer to a solution.

What’s next?

Read related articles about growing your career, or submit your CV to access a wide range of live roles in your industry. One of our consultants will be in touch to discuss your career options.

Looking to grow your career this year?

Download our career development toolkit for expert advice.

Download your toolkit today

Try out our job match tool

Take a look through similar roles in your sector to see what else is on offer. 

Try out our tool

Where next on your professional journey?

Find out what your next career move should be with our quick and easy quiz 

Take our quiz