Workplace conflicts are normal. You spend almost as much time with your co-workers as you do with your family. There are bound to be times when you disagree.
Although it might be tempting to leave these conflicts unaddressed in order to not “rock the boat,” resolving conflict is a critical practice at work. When conflicts go unaddressed, they lead to stress and a negative company culture.
Why is this important?
- When conflicts go unaddressed, they fester and rot. This can quickly lead to a toxic and unpleasant work environment for everyone, whether or not they were directly involved in the original conflict.
- Employees with workplace conflicts have lower well-being, including more stress and depression.
- It’s impossible to practice civility and respect in the workplace without being able to solve conflicts in healthy and mature ways.
- Unresolved conflict leads to chronic stress. And chronic stress has serious health consequences, like heart disease and an increased risk for mental illness.
Tips to address conflict at work:
- Don’t allow conflicts to go unaddressed. This builds resentment for everyone involved.
- If you are an employee who is in conflict with another employee, then try to resolve it between you. Approach the person with empathy and understanding. Communicate how you’re feeling, and what changes you’d like to see. Repeat what you hear the other person saying to avoid misunderstandings.
- Always practice respect and civility. Never attack the person or use abusive language. Try to stay focused on the issue at hand, not the person you’re having a conflict with.
- Sometimes, it might be appropriate to give the other person a “cool-off” period. You are the best judge of this. Some conflicts might become worse if ignored, even for a short time.
- If the conflict isn’t able to be resolved directly and privately, then seek mediation support from your manager or human resources department.
- If you are a manager, encourage employees to solve conflicts between themselves. If it becomes apparent that you need to get involved, don’t take sides except in situations where one person is clearly the victim (such as in a sexual harassment case).
- Brainstorm with your employees, and offer step-by-step solutions.
Atlantic Speakers Bureau & Human Skills Development. Civility in the workplace [Training manual]/ https://humanskillsdevelopment.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Civility-in-the-Workplace-Student-Training-Manual-PDF-Download.pdf
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Mental Health - Addressing Conflicts [Fact Sheet]. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/mentalhealth_conflicts.html
Sonnentag, S & Unger, D (2013). Workplace conflict and employee well-being: The moderating role of detachment from work during off-job time. https://d-nb.info/1100059997/34
UC San Diego. How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace. https://blink.ucsd.edu/HR/supervising/conflict/handle.html