Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

By: Megan Jones

Whether it is with colleagues, family or friends, conflict can be difficult to navigate. And when conflict arises in the workplace it can be very anxiety inducing.  However, conflict does not always have to be negative. Let’s work through conflict by discussing the appropriate ways to address conflict resolution in the workplace!

Understanding Conflict

Before beginning to manage any type of conflict it is important to understand why a conflict is occurring. Most of the time a conflict arises because there is a difference between expectation and the actual outcome. When conflict occurs many of us may not want to feel at fault so, we fill the gap with excuses which can further exasperate the situation.

Why We Make Excuses

Our first attempt in resolving conflict may be to save face and make an excuse or try to explain ourselves. This tactic helps us resolve our feeling of cognitive dissonance we are experiencing. We experience cognitive dissonance when we have two contradictory thoughts, beliefs, opinions, or attitudes. When we are conflict we may be on the defense thinking that we could not have made a mistake because we are good at our job and these two tensions contradict. In order to ensure that we stay in line with what we believe we may provide an excuse or explanation. Therefore, we will play the defense card thinking that the reason we are in conflict is based on other external factors out of our control.

However, the first step in resolving a conflict in reflecting on the situation and working to resolve it with the people you are involved with. That is not to say that every time there is conflict that you make an excuse. Moreover, that is not say that there are incidents that occur because there truly were external factors that were out of your control and ultimately led to conflict. But it is important to reflect and look at the conflict further. From there we can make better decisions because we aren’t thinking we need to deflect or dodge the situation.

Conflict Management Strategies

First, on the conflict itself. How did it happen, what is the cause that the outcome didn’t meet the expectation? What role did you play? Additionally, what role did others play?

Once you have had this time to reflect then move forward. Yes maybe there were external factors that inhibited the result, ending in conflict. However,  consider asking why did those external factors come into play? This may lead to the root of the conflict.

Open Communication

Both parties need to be able to address and discuss the conflict in a calm manner. Choose a time when both parties have had the opportunity to reflect and then come together to discuss the conflict. When your colleague is speaking actively listen. Do not try and refute every point they make. Focus on trying to step in their shoes and see from their perspective. From there, acknowledge their feelings and openly discuss yours as well. Your colleague should provide the same courtesy and respect to you.

Choose an Appropriate Environment

Conflict should be handled privately and appropriately. Additionally, these matters are best discussed in person. Given today’s climate that isn’t always feasible however, I would encourage in person, so communication doesn’t get lost in translation. Mediated devices can further exasperate the situation with lag time, and interruptions. Should a mediated conversation be the only option, let your colleague express themselves, then wait 3-5 seconds after they finish to ensure you do not interrupt them because the audio may lag with video conferencing .  Moreover, consider having a meeting and having a HR rep or your manager to help mediate the situation.


After discussing your concerns and acknowledging your colleague’s perspective work together to find a resolution. Compromise is a great way to resolve so both parties feel that they have gained something from the situation.


After working through this conflict, look at it as an opportunity for growth. What did you learn from the situation? Does the situation itself recognize an underlying issue that was addressed? Use this situation as a learning opportunity to gain more perspective on how to work with your colleague to ensure you both feel comfortable and confident moving forward.

Remember conflict doesn’t have to be bad! It can be a learning and growing opportunity for you both! Open communication is key and together you both make your organization stronger.

Looking to Learn More? Click Below:

10 Helpful Strategies for Conflict Management-Indeed

Why Is it So Hard to Admit Your Wrong-NY Times

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