Office Conflict Resolution: 11 Communication Tips for a Healthy Workplace
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR
Misunderstandings and communication problems remain one of the most common
sources of workplace strife, and interpersonal difficulties are magnified when
conflicting work styles coexist in one setting. Generational differences (baby
boomers vs. GenX-ers), personal management styles, educational background, and
cultural diversity are all potential sources of office
While conflict is inevitable, it need not ruin your
workday or cause unbearable stress. Try these conflict resolution tips to make
your work environment a less stressful, more productive place:
- Be specific in formulating your complaints. "I'm never invited to
meetings" is not as effective as "I believe I would have been able to
contribute some ideas at last Thursday's marketing meeting."
- Resist the temptation to involve yourself in conflicts that do not
directly involve you or your responsibilities. Even if someone has clearly
been wronged, allow him or her to resolve the situation as he/she chooses.
- Try to depersonalize conflicts. Instead of a "me versus you" mentality,
visualize an "us versus the problem" scenario. This is not only a more
professional attitude, but it will also improve productivity and is in the
best interests of the company.
- Be open and listen to another's point of view and reflect back to
the person as to what you think you heard. This important clarification
skill leads to less misunderstanding, with the other person feeling heard
and understood. Before explaining your own position, try to paraphrase and
condense what the other is saying into one or two sentences. Start with, "So
you're saying that..." and see how much you really understand about your rival's position. You may find that you're on the same wavelength but having
problems communicating your ideas.
- Don't always involve your superiors in conflict resolution. You'll
quickly make the impression that you are unable to resolve the smallest
- If an extended discussion is necessary, agree first on a time and place
to talk. Confronting a coworker who's with a client or working on a deadline
is unfair and unprofessional. Pick a time when you're both free to
concentrate on the problem and its resolution. Take it outside
and away from the group of inquisitive coworkers if
they're not involved in the problem. Don't try to hold negotiations when the
office gossip can hear every word.
- Limit your complaints to those directly involved in the workplace
conflict. Character assassination is unwarranted. Remember, you need to
preserve a working relationship rather than a personal one, and your opinion
of a coworker's character is generally irrelevant. "He missed last week's
deadline" is OK; "he's a total idiot" is not.
- Know when conflict isn't just conflict. If conflict arises due to
sexual, racial, or ethnic issues, or if someone behaves inappropriately,
that's not conflict, it's harassment. Take action and discuss the problem
with your supervisor or human resources department.
- Consider a mediator if
the problem gets out of control, or if the issue
is too emotional to resolve in a mutual discussion. At this step, your
supervisor should be involved. You can consider using a neutral third party
mediator within your own company (human resources if available) or hiring a professional counselor.
- Take home point: It's not all about you - You may think it's a
personal attack, but maybe your co-worker is just having a bad day. Take
time to think BEFORE you speak in response to an insensitive remark. It may
be that saying nothing is the best response.
For more, please visit the Health and the Workplace
Reference: CDC.gov. Stress...At Work.Last Editorial Review: 12/1/2010