What is the Best Way to Handle Office Conflict?

John Krautzel
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Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Managers face frustration when productivity is low, and employees deal with challenges among co-workers on a daily basis. Office conflict does not need to be a negative force that derails the company culture, however. Professionals who find strategies to cope with challenges in a positive and effective manner can motivate others and improve workforce productivity and profitability.

Office conflict can be positive when it exposes new ideas and promotes healthy competition. Innovative strategies are often discovered when professionals do not agree and are forced to compromise. Individuals who commit to actively listening to others even when they are opposed to the ideas learn how to collaborate and work as a team.

Office conflict is often minimized with clear and concise communication practices, explains Phyllis Korkki with the New York Times. Managers should establish guidelines for resolving differences in opinion in a positive manner. Employees should be given equal time to express their thoughts and ideas without interruptions or criticism from co-workers or managers. People who feel secure in communicating to others without being shut down immediately tend to work out problems and challenges in an effective and professional manner.

Employers should also establish norms for behavior when confronted with office conflict. Meetings should not be a free for all for employees to label or demoralize their co-workers. Managers must outline acceptable behavior and procedures for expressing ideas and constructive criticism. Behavioral guidelines may include waiting for a designated turn to talk, specific words and phrases that are not allowed in the workplace and actions or gestures that are prohibited. Employees should be trained on how to communicate productively and cohesively with co-workers so that they are prepared to handle challenges when they arise. Managers who provide examples of encouraging phrases and actions designed to inspire and motivate others increase the opportunity for enhanced results and less distractions caused by emotional outbreaks.

Office conflict regarding tasks and priorities can often produce heated debates. Employers should work closely with teams working on projects to help them delegate tasks, establish priorities and create a timeline to complete the work to reduce the risk of animosity among employees and groups. Managers should identify the strengths of employees and assign tasks to individuals with proficiency in the related area to increase the potential success of the team and the project itself while minimizing the risks of potential conflicts.

Workplaces are comprised of professionals with differing opinions, diverse philosophies and varied levels of work ethic. It is inevitable that disagreements occur in the workplace, but when employers and managers have practices in place to combat office conflict, employees are much more likely to resolve issues and problems independently and in a manner that promotes a positive company culture.

Photo Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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    Laws need to be inforced about workplace bullying. Especially those of us in Entry level jobs who should be basically mid career jobs but are not given opportunity due to Affirmative Action.

  • Kathryn J.
    Kathryn J.

    Great point Joseph! A manager should manage ...and set the standards.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Bill thanks for your comments. Healthy competition is a very common phrase used in both business and in sports. Competition certainly can be healthy. It can make one go further than if there was no competition at all. Just my opinion though.

  • BILL M.
    BILL M.

    It's all good fun until somebody gets hurt. In any form of what you laughingly call 'healthy competition', somebody gets hurt. If not physically, in reputation and in career. We like to think of 'good clean fun', until it gets down and dirty.

  • BILL M.
    BILL M.

    'Healthy Competition' is a contradiction.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    So true @David but many workers do not understand that they should not air their personal beliefs - not at work. There is a time and place for that and work is not it. Their personal convictions should remain their own and should be kept quiet. Thanks for bringing that up. It's something that we all need to heed.

  • David G.
    David G.

    Conflict may ensue when one person has a conviction that is not shared by others. In such a case, that conviction should be kept private until it can be understood by other coworkers and managers. Airing personal beliefs does not help either.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the great comments. Yes it is true that managers should be required to go through training - especially something like sensitivity training - to learn how to lead, communicate and resolve any issues. A manager should never show favoritism to any one particular employee and should never criticize an employee in front of others. Praise in public but reprimand in private. Team members should work together for the common good - to reach the goal. If a member is weak in a certain area, then he/she should ask for help from another team member or even from the team leader/manager. Conflict does not belong in the workplace although most of us have seen it or been in the center of it. The best thing that you can do is try to stay out of the conflict as best as you can and be the one to promote a healthy positive energy to those around you.

  • Mr Muziwakhe Ben Cele
    Mr Muziwakhe Ben Cele

    Conflict @work can be caused by leaders themselves. Napotism,favouritism,racims,political affiliates,lack of skill and etc. These are some of other things that can cause conflict @work.

  • Susan B.
    Susan B.

    Companies should invest in FREE classes on how to be good leader, effectively communicate and overcome obstacles. Giving people these tools and skills will help achieve company goals and sustainable results. It's not taught in school and most aren't born with good communication and resolution skills.

  • Gary Lewis
    Gary Lewis

    Good team work is where the strength of one employee supports the weakness of another. For me I am great at math but week in spelling. I would help another with a reasonable complex math problem while he would check my spelling.

  • Gary Lewis
    Gary Lewis

    Unfortunately some supervisors can not accept the idea "We agree to disagree" and the subordinate is muzzled. In my carrier I am not worried about being wrong but if I prove myself right I then have to face the wrath or emotional reaction from my boss who I proved to be wrong

  • Michael K.
    Michael K.

    Plus management needs to be trained to minimize any office conflict !!

  • Michael K.
    Michael K.

    Proper Training and good communication from management, would greatly help the situation.

  • Vivian Haus
    Vivian Haus

    Managers who play favorites and allow disrespect amoung coworkers need better training. Also, being told that one person is carrying the team is not team building, it's team breaking. Learn to manage in a positive way, stay nitrile and if you do have favorites don't show it.

  • Christine K.
    Christine K.

    Stay Positive and Support Oneanother.

  • Patricia Skory
    Patricia Skory

    Pull the positives out of every situation. They are there. Great Article

  • JOE M.
    JOE M.

    As a leader I advocate for challenging situations, decisions, processes, and not people. I also have found that if people are clear on and committed to a common purpose or mission, what their end goal is, then differences over best pathways and methods are often more manageable. It's when people don't share a sense of clear mission that vicious conflict appears.

  • isaac katuruza
    isaac katuruza

    Good information that all junior managers should know

  • JOE M.
    JOE M.

    Funny, the email from Beyond showed a title about how to avoid conflict, rather than how to handle it. Maybe it's both, depending on what the conflict is based on.

  • Eileen B.
    Eileen B.

    Well if everyone would just do what they are supposed to do and not cut corners making more work for others that would sure help!!!! Then the manager needs to make sure that the slacker gets set straight. Then the slacker needs to refrain from bellyaching!!!!

  • Susan R.
    Susan R.

    Managers establishing guidelines, and parameters for effective interactions oils the gears of group work, and potentially speeds the process of project completion.


    Don't forget, offer your best face to everyone at anytime.

  • Adrienne B.
    Adrienne B.

    Very good information

  • Catherine mcavoy
    Catherine mcavoy

    A team is only as strong as their leader. Management often creates this culture .

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